Sunday, 10 May 2020

Is it too much to ask that Labour sides with tenants and workers, not the idle and exploitative landlord class?


The UK economy has been thrown into the worst crisis since 1709, following hot on the heels of the 2008 financial sector insolvency meltdown, and the decade of wanton economy-stagnating Tory austerity ruination that followed it.

Under these circumstances it's the responsibility of the opposition to come up with bold progressive solutions to aid the economic recovery and to protect the most vulnerable and exploited people in society for being lumbered with the costs.

But instead, Labour's new shadow housing minister Thangam Debbonaire has come up with a truly awful proposal.

Instead of demanding radical action to cancel rent arrears and clamp down on the exploitative private rental market, Labour have actually proposed a policy of forcing private renters to pay back their coronavirus rent arrears over two years.

If the coronavirus crisis lasts for six months, a two year repayment schedule would mean an additional 25% on top of private rents that are already inflated to absolutely ludicrous levels, during a period of mass unemployment to boot!

One of the very few potential benefits of an economic crisis for ordinary people is the prospect of deflation in housing costs, but Labour insist on siding with the landlords to ensure that they get their rent arrears by lumbering the full cost onto their tenants.

Let's not forget that people haven't just stopped going to work because they wanted to, they were forced to by the government. A government that then implemented an absolute bodge-job of workers' support measures full of holes and arbitrary cut-offs, purely because of their ideological opposition to implementing emergency Basic Income measures.

Thus millions of the most vulnerable workers have been left without income for a significant period, through no fault of their own, but instead of siding with them, Labour is insisting that they must pay the entire cost of their rent arrears themselves. And to top it off they're pretending that this policy of prioritising landlords' profits above ordinary people's living standards constitutes "help"!

Even if we ignore the plight of individuals who face being loaded down with housing debts that they simply can't afford to pay, there's quite clearly a macroeconomic cost to making the poor pay for the crisis in this way.

In order to find an extra 25% in rent over a two year period, huge numbers of people would have to pay off these debts by spending all of what would have been their disposable income (which is what people have left after essentials like rent, utility bills, childcare, and food).

This means no trips to bars, restaurants, theatres, pool halls, cinemas ... no days out, no saving towards setting up their own businesses, because the exploitative landlord class must have their extra monthly pint of blood to ensure that the coronavirus crisis costs them absolutely nothing.

The workers must pay so that the idle retain their privileges is an economic policy that will lead to reduced demand in the economy, a slower recovery, and fewer jobs.

In the depths of an economic downturn the last thing needed by people who run real businesses (those who do real economic activity rather than just rentier parasitism) is even fewer customers, because their potential customers are spending their entire disposable income servicing debts to the idle rentier class, rather than spending it on real economic activity.

Instead of facing the issue head on and saying that it's completely unfair to force people to repay debts that were accrued through no fault of their own, that it's awful for social welfare to enforce these debts, and extremely bad for the economy too - Labour has somehow decided to revert to the worst kind of 'centrist' slop, positioning themselves a couple of millimetres to the left of whatever horror show they expected the Tories would come up with.

Labour don't want to instantly evict tenants (hooray), but they want to financially cripple them for years, purely for the benefit of private landlords, and they're trying to dress this pathetically weak sauce up as some kind of wonderful favour they're doing too!

If the government says you mustn't work, the idea of loading the full cost of this enforced layoff onto low-income workers and private tenants is absolutely abhorrent.

If the government is going to force people not to work, it has a moral responsibility to ensure that they're not driven into debt, especially when the servicing of these debts will obviously have negative macroeconomic consequences for the post-crisis recovery.

This policy is so incredibly bad it transcends the usual left-right conflict between what's best for society and what's best for capitalism, because it elevates landlordism above both!

Screw what's fair, and screw what's best for the capitalist economy too, because our primary objective is ensuring the idle landlord class get their pint of blood!

What an extraordinary position for Labour to be taking.

And who is this policy meant to appeal to other than private landlords? Would it be enough to convince any private landlords switch allegiance from Tory to Labour? And how many dozens of natural Labour voters will it end up chasing away per "soft Tory" it attracts?

I don't want to blame Keir Starmer for this, but he can't have not foreseen how important the shadow housing brief was going to be, because the coronavirus crisis was well underway when he made these appointments, and yet he still handed it to Thangam Debbonaire anyway.

Just when we needed radical principled proposals from the opposition, we're back to the kind of flaccid, directionless, and shockingly unappealing weak sauce politics that marred the Miliband era, and handed the 2015 General Election to the Tory austerity wreckers.

If Labour can't even bring itself to stand up for ordinary workers who were ordered not to work by the government, because they're too busy prioritising the financial interests of the landlord class, then what the hell is the point of Labour at all?


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22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Under Starmer Labour has continued to dig themselves into a deeper hole. The vast majority of renters are unable to pay their bills. The reality is that after the PM's brush with death, the government are more popular than ever. Labour should have demanded that ALL rent payments should be CANCELLED.

Anonymous said...

Labour have made their choice.

When the Tories advised people to not work but didn't ban it, it was a handout to the insurers (and re-insurers that back the debt). This shafted workers and businesses dependant on a ban to claim on said insurance. We know where Tories priorities lie. But for Labour not to go in with a two footed tackle and instead not criticise them in the name of unity was stupid.

Now they pull this rubbish.

The staggering out of the debt will space out the evictions. What would have been an involuntary mass rent strike with simultaneous evictions will now be separated enough that the mainstream can ignore it. Bluntly, if the Tories take up this idea, Labour will have done more damage than doing nothing at all. Only a delusional workforce on at least three times the average salary could have their heads this far in the clouds.

The fact that they have not come up with workable solutions speaks volumes. Its almost as if they're paid to lose... remind me who paid for Keir Starmer's election again?

Anonymous said...

Brush with death ahaha ... PM hahahaha ... Boris Johnson ahaha hahaha lol

Stage managed. Dead man walking. I'll leave it at that.

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Anonymous said...

The Labour party has been invaded by this kind of middle-class Tories looking for a career.
Its been purposely done over many years with people at the top of Labour's staff helping provide talent spotting and bringing these people in. The middle class now own Labour and are desperate to split from the working class responsibility they have. I urge all decent people not to leave Labour but in fact join Labour to help the resistance fighting inside and fighting well, to win back our Party. If you do not we will end up with one Party state that will enslave your kids in poverty. Walking away is just assisting Starmer and his ilk to do what they want. The Party is worth fighting for and members can overcome these invaders.

Anonymous said...

While almost half of landlords own just one property, half of private rented sector tenancies are let by the 17% of landlords with five or more properties. (representing 31% of the sector). The remaining 17% of landlords own five or more properties, representing 48% of the private rented sector.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/775002/EPLS_main_report.pdf

So the majority of one property landlords who depend on rent as a pension have to pay a bank mortgage most cases and there is no freebies from any bank.

Anonymous said...

Honestly the Corona virus would have been handled a lot better with a privatised health care system. We should privatise the NHS.

Gulliver Foyle said...

I seem to recall that famous Commie/Maoist/Trot Adam Smith had a detrimental word or 2 to say about landlords.

Anonymous said...

@Gulliver Foyle

Do you have an actual policy to advocate for or are you just going to bore the shit out of everyone by alluding to a long dead economist?

Anonymous said...

'Honestly the Corona virus would have been handled a lot better with a privatised health care system. We should privatise the NHS'.

What, like the predatory prehistoric free-market dog's dinner system in the glorious USA?

Anonymous said...

@anonymous

No. It's not free market. The 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act prevents negotiation of prices with drug companies. It renders the free market moot.

That's not even considering the 2014 Medicare Act which means on top of Big Pharma charging what they want (they probably wrote the 2003 Act), Americans are now forced to pay for medicare regardless of if they want it or not. You combine that with the 2003 Act and you've just scuppered affordability.

I mean, you knew this didn't you? You'd actually researched the U.S history of health care?

Anonymous said...

@anonymous

So you're arguing to take away healthcare from the over 65's, young disabled people and dialysis patients? Just so we're clear.

https://www.hhs.gov/answers/medicare-and-medicaid/what-is-the-difference-between-medicare-medicaid/index.html

I'm not saying they're great bills by any stretch, but the argument that "if you can't afford healthcare you don't deserve it" is medieval. Frequently, the poorest and oldest need the most care which is expensive. Without balancing this out with the richer parts of society, you are telling them to go hang.

The "I'm only responsible for me and I should take what I want" crap leads to Ayn Rand and praise for serial killers.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous

"So you're arguing to take away healthcare from the over 65's, young disabled people and dialysis patients? Just so we're clear."

No. Look at American Healthcare in the sixties, it was cheap, affordable and you didn't even need insurance. You could pay as you go. Hell you had charities who'd gladly pay it for you. Those charities become a lot less likely to pay if a) the medical cost is as astronomical (which you're ok with) b) They're getting state subsidy, because they don't need to be competitive and slip into corporatism.

The irony of this situation is your clamouring for a state run system that lowers the quality of health care for everyone meaning more people die. You can clamour about private healthcare being uncaring but at the end of the day: it saves more people.

You do understand that those billions put into PFI, nationally funded but privately run hospitals and all the failings of the NHS simply don't function in a private system, right?

The: "It's fair and equal to make everyone worse off" Crap is reserved for Stalinist's and serial killers. See what I did there?

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Martin Willoughby said...

I Shared your piece on my FB page and a friend made the following comment. I think she misseed the point of the article. What do you make of her response?

"Shameful article, Ill thought through. Labelling landlords as idle really does not help. They are running a business, some running these businesses with the help of bank loans and still having to bear the costs of maintaining them. You think the banks won’t make these businesses pay the loans? You think it’s ok for landlords not to be able to afford to fix the boiler when it goes wrong?

I have chosen to leave one un-mortgaged property empty (to save on maintenance costs) than to rent it out to someone who might not be able to meet rent payments... for this very reason! (Not in UK). Is this what tenants want in the UK? If the property had housed tenants prior to lockdown, I would not dream of evicting them. I would try to work with them through a difficult time. However, I would like to think they would try to re-pay my kindness when they could. That would be right, fair and enable them to retain their dignity (as believe it or not, some tenants would be ashamed of accepting charity).

Do you think being rude about landlords for not handing out free rents is going to solve the housing crisis! This would surely alienate them. Far better to get them on side and try and work with them."

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