The Bedroom Tax Shames Britain

From The Mirror

Julia Jones, who will have to live on just £53 a week, faces losing the home and garden where she scattered her husband’s ashes

Dear Mr Cameron

Julia+Jones++Writes+to+Mr+Cameron+about+room+tax++at+her+home++in+Newbury+BerksI heard you in Prime Minister’s Questions say you would look at individual cases on the bedroom tax. I am 59 years old, David (my husband) and I have both worked since we were 15, paid taxes, did our bit. We have never been well off but we both did worthwhile jobs.

Five years ago David got melanoma. He had excruciating treatment and, although still not well, returned to work as he thought it was his duty. Four years ago he got bowel cancer; he had an irreversible colostomy. Six months later he returned to work. Two years ago he got brain cancer. Seven weeks later he died.

Throughout all this I was advised I could get care allowance, but I rejected this: he was my husband, it was my duty to care for him. We lived off the little savings we had until we could return to work. When he had the colostomy we were allocated this home as David could not climb stairs any more and I struggled. His ashes are buried in the garden under the rose bushes that friends gave me instead of wreaths.

Mr Cameron, my husband and I were the hard workers you claim to support, we never asked for anything.

I would give everything if this had not happened to us. Because we were on benefit and sick, you and your government said hateful words against us. Words that made acquaintances look at us with contempt.

The most powerful men in the country imply we are scum so we must be scum. You and your government call us scroungers, next door go to work while our bedroom curtains are still drawn.

My curtains were still drawn at 11am as the light made David scream with pain.

Do you not consider that I would give everything for my husband to be alive, me to not have incapacitating pain and we could both be the hard workers we once were? I live in small 1 1/2 bed bungalow that was built for older people. It is supported elderly living so I feel safe. It could not house a family as under 55s are not allowed.

You now want to take my home from me. The home that literally made my fingers bleed cleaning as it had been neglected for 20 years when we moved here. You want me to leave my husband’s ashes, my neighbours who take me shopping and give me some form of social life? I have no family, we could not have children.

I am living without heating at present so how can I pay what I do not have to stay in my home? Have you any idea how that affects my fibromyalgia?

I eat one meal a day and am in constant pain which is exacerbated by the cold. I may get Discretionary Housing Benefit. But we both know that is only for 13 weeks at a time and when the pot is empty, it is empty. I have considered moving but the only property available is far from shops and bus stops and costs £98 per month more than where I am at present. I would be living in isolation.

You say you are building more social housing, but it is too little too late for many of us. You may blame the Labour policies, but it was your government who introduced this law so I have to hold you responsible.

Mr Cameron, I do not believe you or your MPs are evil men at heart, I believe this is an ill-thought-out plan and you did not understand the consequence of your action.

I ask you to take a step back and look at this again.

THE ABOVE IS JUST PLAIN CRUEL…I AM ASHAMED TO BE BRITISH.

Yours, Julia Jones

Oona King: It Still Doesnt Add Up

Oona KingTory Troll, Adam Bienkov, has written some interesting thoughts on the Labour Party’s mayoral selection:

Nobody, not even Oona King herself could seriously have thought that she could beat Ken Livingstone to the nomination.

Her candidacy always appeared to me a face-saving exercise from those who had spent the past two years briefing that they would take Ken on.

In the event none of them quite had the guts to do it and so it was left instead to Oona.

Now I’ve met Oona and she seems like a decent and likable person, but from the start her campaign has been remarkably lacklustre and wrong-headed.

Rather than demonstrate her ability to take on the current Conservative mayor, she has been determined to re-run the same campaign against Ken that Boris Johnson ran in 2008.

  • A call for term limits? Check.

  • Cronyism accusations? Check.

  • Support from Andrew Gilligan? Check.
  • Focus on knife and gang crime? Check.
  • Vague promises to outer London? Check
  • Promises for a “new tube line” on the Thames? Check.
  • A new type of impractical bus? Check.
  • Self-inflicted Freedom Pass controversy? Check

Read the rest here.

Oona King’s end game is odd, being quoted by Pippa Crerar in yesterday’s Standard saying:

Her team acknowledged privately from the start that beating front-runner Ken Livingstone who has union support was a long shot. However, they feel she has run a successful campaign that has raised her profile.

Ms King has spoken passionately about the need for Labour to provide a “more serious alternative” for London in future.

A friend said: “We could have been out for the count, but we’re not. If she loses just slightly then she would be well-placed to run for it again.”

This is very inconsistent because in radio interviews and press briefings Oona King’s campaign team have been very confident all along that polls were showing them ahead; they told Guardian blogger, Dave Hill, back in August, that canvassing data indicated a clear Oona King lead.

What is most odd here is that she is hinting she might try again next time to be labour’s mayoral candidate: but she doesn’t want to run for the London Assembly, because she says she enjoys her job at Channel Four too much. It is also clear, having read her autobiographical diaries, that she found being an MP an enormous strain, and the stress damaged her health.

Being mayor of London would be much more difficult and stressful than being a backbench MP, and if she prefers being Head of Diversity at Channel Four to being a London Assembly member, then why did she ever want to be mayor in the first place? Something doesn’t add up.

Has Oona King Given Up?

Within the last hour Ken Livingstone’s campaign team sent out a further rallying e-mail, calling on people to back him to take on Boris Johnson and the Tories:

One week ago Boris Johnson confirmed that he will run again. His interview on Andrew Marr’s BBC programme last weekend shows what’s at stake. He said of the government’s cuts: “They’re absolutely right to make cuts and you know we in the government in London have been making you know very substantial cuts for the last two years.”

He campaigned to get the Tories into Downing Street. His cuts are the government’s cuts.

In the coming days we will keep up the pressure on Boris Johnson and his colleagues in government because the cuts, privatisation and higher fares they stand for are a big backward step for Londoners.

I hope, if you have not done so already, you’ll use your vote for a serious, united, energetic campaign for 2012 that aims to be a key part of the vital alternative we need. Please vote online to be sure your vote is in time.

The key messages from Ken are the need to oppose the Tories, and unite the labour movement, and wider progressive opinion, into a campaign that can do so. There has been a remarkable contrast between his purposeful and anti-Tory campaign to gain the Labour nomination, and the frothy and divisive campaign that Oona King has conducted, which has seemed more at home criticising Ken than Boris.

But the indictations are that Oona King’s campaign team have tidied their desks and gone home early. Her campaign manager Matt Cooke is tweeting from the David Miliband phonebank - apparently not feeling the urgency to phone for Oona. If her own campaign manager isn’t out there getting the vote for Oona, then is anyone?

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Her  head of e-campaigns and events, Kevin McKeever, has removed his Oona King job refs from his twitter bio, even though the campaign is still running, and people can still vote on-line.

Her head of policy, Wes Streeting, has been very quiet about anything to do with Oona lately – but one of his last tweets about Oona went out of its way to emphasise unity with Ken. Giving me the impression that Wes is trying some personal bridge building recognising that Ken is going to win.

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Oona King Campaign Limping to the Finish Line

Oona King made great play of the fact that she has had more MP supporters than Ken Livingstone in her bid to become Labour’s candidate for London mayor, this has been trumpeted by the Daily Telegraph and Spectator, for example; but with yesterday’s announcement from Emily Thornberry that she is backing Ken, then Livingstone has 15 London MPs supporting him to Oona’s 14. So in every area, Oona King has less declared support than Ken Livingstone.

So why has Oona’s candidacy failed to take off? One reason perhaps is the negative tone of her campaign, denigrating Ken, and by implication criticising Labour’s past record in office. For example, her recent blog post is all about how bad Ken Livingstone is. This doesn’t match with the experience of London Labour Party members and trade unionists, who know that Livingstone is a redoubtable fighter, with an unparalleled grasp of policy, and a genuine passion for taking the fight to Boris Johnson. Livingstone’s campaign to get the nomination has turned all its fire on the Tories, and not on his Labour Party rival.

Another reason for Oona King’s poor performance, is the gap between the media projected image, and the reality. For all the talk of exciting new thinking, and new policies, most of her policy announcements have been silly. For example her recent pledge to make tourist attractions free for London residents: is she seriously suggesting that there should be a huge subsidy from the public purse for private companies running Madame Tussauds, and London Dungeon?

Ridiculously, Oona King pledges to set up “a powerful new Film Council for London”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this already exists: Film London was set up by Ken Livingstone in 2003 and has helped London to thrive as a venue for all aspects of film production.

There is no doubt that her friends in the media are doing all they can to boost Oona King’s dwindling prospects: the Evening Standard recently provided space for Oona to pledge that she would help the low paid get their foot on the property ladder. Under her scheme, she would use the Greater London Authority to act as guarantor for loans from a credit union or bank. A guarantor is a third party that provides a bank with a guarantee that they will stand behind a loan, and thus allow someone to borrow more than their salary would normally allow.

Hang on? So she wouldn’t expand the social rented sector, and she wouldn’t produce more affordable homes; but she would help people borrow more money than they could afford to repay, and then stand guarantor for the loans, so if they default on the payments, the council tax payer will bail out the banks? Was Oona King asleep when Northern Rock failed?

The stakes are high. Yesterday Boris Johnson announced that he wants to see strikes by public sector workers banned. The two Labour hopefuls made it quite clear where they stand. Livingstone was at City Hall yestrerdaty morning to join trade unions, bus workers and supporters campaigning against fare increases and “attacks on the wages and conditions of bus workers”; in contrast Oona King issued the following statement: “This morning I met London’s business leaders at the London Chamber of Commerce – where we talked about the importance of how to ensure that London is a city fit for the 2020s. If London is to succeed it does not need industrial conflict, but politicians who will engage with every part of the capital to get things done and secure the capital’s future.”

Labour needs a mayoral candidate who can take Boris on and beat him. Oona King is too flaky, too negative, too hostile to trade unions, and too big a risk.

Oona King’s Supporters: “bring Back Mandelson”

Labour Uncut recently published a gushing article by John Woodcock MP, calling for the return of Peter Mandelson to a leading role in the Labour Party. The article itself has little substance, but what is interesting is how it has been received by Oona King’s campaigners. (Remember Oona King is backed by Peter Mandelson in seeking to become Labour’s London mayoral candidate for 2012)

This is how Wes Streeting, Oona King’s head of policy, responded on Twitter: http://twitter.com/wesstreeting/status/24386702362

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Followed by one of Oona King’s most prominent supporters, Richard Angell: http://twitter.com/RichardAngell/status/24386396672

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Oona King Aide Talks Up War on Iran

This is interesting from Liberal Conspiracy

Yesterday a row erupted on Twitter between a group of young supporters of the two Milibands over Iran, with David’s supporters talking up the prospects of military action against Iran as Blair did last week, and Ed’s supporters mainly reiterating current US strategy.

There’s a couple of problems apparent when Wes Streeting (an Oona King campaign team staffer) claims that “the speeches of Ahmedinejad, the work of academics, intelligence” proves the existence of Iranian WMD capability. Click to continue reading

Iraq War Opponents Are “petulant Toddlers”

Oona King is seeking to be selected as the Labour Party candidate for London mayor in 2012.

Famously Oona King lost one of the safest Labour seats in the country to George Galloway in 2005, not only because she supported the immoral war on Iraq, but more particularly due to the arrogant contempt with which she responded to the overwhelmingly anti-war sentiment of her constituents.

So it is no surprise to see one of the key organisers of her campaign team, Kevin McKeever, send this tweet today. McKeever is Oona King’s e-campaigns and events officer,.

Thanks to Selection Spotlight

Where Did Oona King Get Those E-mail Addresses From?

More from Selection Spotlight 

Previously we reported questions arising from how Oona King had been able to contact London Labour members using information not given to both candidates by the party. This story has now made it into the Evening Standard today.

Many party members have contacted Oona King’s campaign directly after receiving emails from Kevin McKeever of her campaign team, asking how Oona King’s campaign obtained their personal information. London Labour members have now started to receive replies from Mr McKeever.

He writes:
“The Oona King campaign has sourced email contact data from a range of legitimate sources, including affiliate organisations, campaigning groups and informal networks of Labour Party members.”

Many are not satisfied. But Mr McKeever’s reply raises a new question. He says that contact data has been sourced from affiliate organisations. Most affiliated organisations are trade unions. Two are backing Oona King – Usdaw and Community. The overwhelming majority are backing Ken Livingstone. Traditionally the unions do not pass their membership data to anyone else. That is because they are free-standing organisations with their own obligations to their members.

Other affiliates are generally not backing any candidate – the Fabian Society and the Co-operative party have made no recommendations for example.

Kevin McKeever’s reply begs the question – is he saying Community and Usdaw handed over their membership details to Oona King? And what other affiliates’ data is implied in the response from Kevin McKeever?