Party activists have launched new campaign group ‘Labour Tenants United’ today, declaring that “Labour fails renters” and “around one in every five Labour MPs” receives an income through rent.
In a statement urging Labour members to sign up to their initiative, the organisation said the party “seeks not only to represent the interests of the landlords” but also that “it is represented by them too”.
The campaign stated a need for “bold policies from Labour, to ensure that tenants get a fair housing deal” and said it aims to get better parliamentary representation for renters. The group declared that it has one goal: “Empower the tenants.”
The launch of the new organisation comes amid an ongoing debate about the party’s position on renters in the Covid-19 crisis – specifically, whether the party should be calling for rent cancellations or deferrals.
Activists William Sorenson, Patrick Jenkins, Luke Evans and Wrenna Robson launched Labour Tenants United following an open letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer on the party’s current policy proposal.
Commenting on the launch, they said: “We’re excited to get going with the campaign. The strength of feeling amongst renters and Labour supporters for strong policy created for tenants and by those on the side of tenants shows how overwhelming the case is for policy change and we will see that happen.”
The group has said it will work within the Labour Party’s democratic structures with shadow cabinet members, tenant’s unions, local parties and renters – including grassroots members and those outside the party.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour had advocated rent deferrals in a letter to the Prime Minister on March 14th. But Corbyn shortly afterwards called for a suspension, and John McDonnell said the “government should cover rent”.
Labour advocated rent deferrals earlier this month, which would require additional payments by renters to cover arrears accrued during the Covid-19 crisis. Within 48 hours of the change, 4,000 Labour members had signed the open letter to Starmer in opposition.
Backbench MPs including Zarah Sultana and Clive Lewis have also criticised the policy, with Lewis saying that he would be supporting Covid-19 rent strikes and urging Labour members and councillors to do the same.
Below is the full text of the launch statement from Labour United Tenants.
The Labour Party as it stands today seeks not only to represent the interests of the landlords, but it is represented by them too, with around one in every five Labour MPs declaring earnings through rent.
This means Labour is deaf to the demands of the renters. This means Labour consults the landlord lobby before it consults tenants unions. This means Labour refuses to back calls to cancel the rent. This means Labour fails renters.
We’re going to fix that. Labour Tenants United is a campaign group within Labour that has one goal: empower the tenants.
We look to keep in close co-ordination with existing tenants unions and turn the Labour Party into a vehicle that can represent their interests in parliament where it has so far failed.