31 March 1990: Thousands of people rioted in Trafalgar Square against the Poll Tax, a modern-day equivalent of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt (also sparked by a poll tax). On November 22, 1990, the hated Margaret Thatcher handed in her resignation as prime sinister…
23 years on, Thatcher has been feted by successive Labour leaders (as well as her own party), we’re about to pay for her giant state funeral, and her prodigies David Cameron and George Osborne are spearheading a government that has even more audacity, a better oiled propaganda machine, and more millionaires and is going that much further, so some people almost feel Thatcher was a soft touch. It hasn’t helped that Labour sold out the people during its tenure…
30 March 2013, near enough on the anniversary of that Battle of Trafalgar Square, there is a planned demonstration against the Bedroom Tax at the same London location close to Downing Street.
What is the bedroom tax? A good potted guide can be found here: http://www.coalitionagainstcuts.org.uk/blog/2012/10/04/get-clued-up-on-the-bedroom-tax/
The riots that defeated the Poll Tax, historians now widely acknowledge, contributed significantly to the downfall of the Thatcher government (her successor John Major wasted no time in scrapping the poll tax and replacing it with council tax). In the year leading up to the riots, a massive campaign of non-payment and direct action against bailiffs swept the country, starting in Glasgow. Councils were left in dire straits by a mass refusal to pay.
Could history repeat itself with the Bedroom Tax? Could this be this government’s “Poll Tax moment”? We hope so, but it’s unlikely to happen spontaneously – it requires a lot of effort and organisation, and determination to refuse to pay,
At least 600,000 households will be adversely affected by the Bedroom Tax, and at least 450 in the Forest of Dean. It’s a case of CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY, or CAN’T PAY SO BECOME HOMELESS… given that if a council doesn’t renege on its obligation to give a homeless family a roof over their head, it can cost taxpayers £3,000 per week to house one family in a hotel… so the tax is not only unnecessarily cruel, it’s also stupid and senseless. Ignoring the thousands of empty properties owned by the rich, the Government wishes to force overcrowding on the poor recipients of housing benefit. Ironically, the one sector of the population whose homes will typically have spare bedrooms after their offspring have flown the nest are exempt from paying.
Perhaps you have a child or children from a previous relationship, and your kids stay over in the holidays or on weekends? That’ll be £20 or more you’d have to find from your meagre income every week to pay the rent… perhaps you have four children – there’ll have to share the same room from now on. Perhaps there are no one- or two-bedroom properties available. Tough. Perhaps you can’t afford the cost of a move. Tough.
As if those who claim housing benefit (and that includes people in work, on low incomes) don’t have it hard enough, they are being put under unbearable stress from April onwards by a bunch of rich millionnaires who don’t only seem to not care a bit about the poor and vulnerable, they want to actively crush them, while using the Sun, Mail and Express as Goebbels did the Nazi propaganda machine to sow seeds of discontent and get these poor folks to instead turn on those even worse off than themselves (or in as bad a situation) – immigrants and the unemployed.
The propaganda machine is evidently working – I’ve lost count of friends (now ex-friends) of mine who’ve started making racist and ‘anti-scrounger’ comments. Friends who were once merry and had a live-and-let-live philosophy ground down into making scapegoats of others.
And meanwhile, the relentless shower of shit from this government continues to rain on us. There are three choices – you either become a scumbag like the Sun wants you to be and start blaming certain groups of working-class people; you let yourself be rained on, perhaps complain a bit, but do and say nothing and keep consuming, hoping your umbrella doesn’t break; you fight against it.
Well, as far as the bedroom tax is concerned, GABTAG (Gloucestershire Anti-Bedroom Tax Action Group) is going to do what it can, depending on numbers. The first organising meeting is being held on Monday February 18 @ Barton Street Community Centre, Gloucester, from 7 to 9pm. Anyone who wants to help set up actions, protests and/or public meetings before and after the March 30 London protest is welcome to come along.
GABTAG is receiving tips and receiving help from already up-and-running groups in Leeds and Bootle, Liverpool.
Contact GABTAG by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/gabtag/ (also join your friends to it!)
Add yourself to the mailing list: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!aboutgroup/gabtag
Check out the new website: http://gabtag.wordpress.com/about
The more of us getting involved in this, the better!