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.

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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump