...is the most valuable argument in politics today." - Emeline Pankhurst.
Letter to Dame Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford:
RE: Early Day Motion to repeal s.144
It has to be said, at the outset, that I have very little faith left in the parliamentary process in general, and the paliamentary Labour party in particular. Is Liam Byrne a Tory in disguise, or what? Does wearing red have any meaning for him, or merely salve his conscience? Abstaining from the vote that will force people to work for free is an out and out betrayal of the working class in this country – all it takes for evil to prevail, and all that. I notice that you never rebel against your party – are they always right?
So I'm wondering if you can help to restore a little bit of faith – to prove that there are still good people left in parliament. I'm writing to ask you to support John McDonnel's Early Day Motion to repeal the odious section 144 of the Legal Aid Sentancing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
I was one of the 2000+ respondants to the Ministry of Justice's euphemistically titled consultation, Options for Dealing with Squatting, that were against criminalisation; along with people like the Law Society, The Metropolitan Police Force and homelessness charities Crisis and Shelter, a full 96% of respondants were against criminalisation. All were ignored, in favour of the seven landlords that took the time to respond. What is more important to you as a politician, protecting property or protecting people?
Of the 33 arrests made since section 144 came in, not a single person was found to be displacing a homeowner. Indeed, ministers and the media alike deliberately misled the public over this issue, and constantly conflate homeowners with empty property. Are you on the side of those desperately seeking shelter, or are you on the side of the super rich? As Alter, a lib dem think tank, explained in its response to the consultation:
“This change is contrary to the interests of UK taxpayers. It would provide a valuable state funded benefit to wealthy tax avoiders. This influential lobby has the ear of Conservative Justice Minister Crispin Blunt. If he were concerned about ordinary property owners who actually pay tax in the UK, there are far cheaper ways of protecting them from squatters.”
Here is an article I recently wrote on the subject, for the New Internationalist. It explains why I think the law has caused more harm than it might have prevented. Why I think that Alex Haigh, an apprentice brick layer searching for work in our capital (a striver, to use your own devisive parliamentary language), did not deserve a custodial sentence and accompanying criminal record for seeking shelter in a property that had been empty for over a year. And why I think L&Q property are the real criminals in this scenario.
One of my friends has recently been toying with the dangerous idea of joining the Labour party. After your most recent betrayal, I told him he'd be better off hurling a brick through his local Labour party's HQ wndows (a la Emeline) than walking through its doors and signing up. I do hope you can go some way to prove me wrong.
ps. Everywhere I go I hear people talking of alternatives to the Labour party. If you want to stop people fighting against you, you only have to start fighting for them. The only apathy I'm aware of is from those in power towards the needs of those who are not...