Yesterday I attended the launch of a campaign in Brighton & Hove to seek cross party support for legislation to be presented to the House of Commons by Sarah Teather MP as a private members Bill. The case for the Bill is made very effectively in this Guardian article here. The challenge in our highly polarised party political public policy world is to find areas of genuine common ground and then ensure all can inhabit it together without any sense of one-upmanship. I first met Jack Madden a few years ago when he asked for my help to engage with local people for another campaign he was working on. He is a member of the Labour Party, and works for Movement for Change, which is one of the organisations in the UK seeking to learn from the Community Organising model of community engagement in policy making first developed in the USA. Another organisation with similar objectives is Citizens UK. I believe both organisations have a part to play here in Brighton & Hove where the 3 dominant Political Parties (Green, Labour and Conservative) are committed to a form of tribal warfare that at times prevents all of them from doing any good in our needy city. The mystery is that the Lib Dems have so far not re-emerged as a agency for change, perhaps they will in time for next years election.
A year or so ago I was present when Jack and his colleagues launched a campaign called #HomeSweetHome which was intended to diminish poor practice by letting agents in the Cities extensive private sector rental market. I was delighted to add my own voice to that campaign in my capacity as Sussex coordinator for Churches Together. It was very frustrating when someone attending Septembers Labour party conference a few weeks ago claimed that the Party was responsible for #HomeSweetHome My own involvement in that campaign, just as with this one was predicated on assurances that this was not a Party Political Campaign. However it is easy to see that other Parties struggle as much to engage with something ‘not invented here’ as Labour do to avoid taking credit for something that was developed in part with their resources.
What really matters is not the arrogance of a few Labour MPs or the discomfort of a few Politicians in other parties. There will always be plenty of issues for them to get uncomfortable with in the future. What matters is that we end the revenge evictions that are damaging the potential for a society that cares about the most vulnerable. If I was a Landlord, I would welcome my tenants raising concerns with me. Having been a tenant for two thirds of my adult life, I know how hard it is to challenge a Landlord over their failure to provide adequate housing. Although Margaret Thatcher gave my generation a strong sense of entitlement to owning their own home, even if there was only one tenant in the UK, we would want to ensure they were able to live in a home that is fit for purpose. In reality there are Millions of tenants and sadly a small number of Landlords whose housing stock needs a great deal of improvement. It is vital that they are prevented from believing that evicting tenants that ask for improvements is acceptable behaviour. We need all MPs to back this Bill, and those that are Landlords to ensure that their own practices are exemplary. I am delighted to report that all 3 MPs in Brighton & Hove have agreed to back the Bill including Simon Kirby who is himself a Landlord.