Revenge evictions are now a thing of the past. (Image: Flickr/Paul)
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The end of revenge evictions proves it: there's nothing more powerful than people

The abolition of revenge evictions shows what people can do when they work together.

This week, organised people won. This week, we put an end to revenge eviction.

Ever since the Tenancies (Reform) Bill made its way on to the Parliamentary schedule last year, people and organisations up and down the country have been pushing parliamentarians of both Houses and all parties to put an end to the practice of landlords evicting tenants simply because they ask them to carry out repairs.

Back in November, the private members bill finally made it to the floor of the Commons. Campaigners across the country made their voices heard by gathering support in their communities, lobbying MPs, and travelling to Parliament to make sure MPs turned up to vote. Unfortunately, due to a parliamentary quirk, the bill was defeated. There was outrage and anger all round.

But, those voices made enough of a noise that the Government had to listen. Within days, amendments were introduced to a new Bill in the House of Lords which were almost identical to the ones in the original Tenancies (Reform) Bill — the fight went on.

The new amendments were passed in the Lords in early March, and arrived on the floor of the Commons this week. After a long and winding road, the bill achieved Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament. It became law.

Throughout this journey, grassroots movements has been at the heart of making sure these changes happened. Together, we put revenge eviction on the political map.

Thanks to the organising and campaigning of a multitude of groups who took action together —  including Shelter, Movement for Change’s Home Sweet Home, Citizens Advice, the GMB, Crisis, Generation Rent and many more — MPs who would otherwise never have turned up for a Private Members Bill turned out for the Tenancies (Reform) Bill debate. They told the stories of how their own constituents had convinced them of the need for change.

When it came back to the Lords, campaigns led by tenants themselves such as Home Sweet Home in Brighton & Hove were cited as proof of the terrible conditions people are forced to live in, and the anger there is at the injustice of inaction. It is the stories of tenants’ experiences which have driven the issue forward.

Finally revenge eviction has been outlawed. We should be in no doubt that this happened because of tenants coming together and taking action on the issues they face. On the ground organising across a multitude of organisations working together, building powerful alliances and national networks. It was because of the breadth and depth of those involved in the fight, and who made their voices heard, that together we influenced the highest offices in the country. We ended revenge eviction because tenants and civil society came together and took action.

 So now, we celebrate. We should all be proud and amazed at what we’ve achieved. Just look at what we can do when we work together. The only question left now is — what’s next?

Martha Mackenzie works at Shelter; Jack Madden is a campaigner with Home Sweet Home, a Movement for Change champaign.

Photo:Getty
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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.