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 Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.