The political circus and the media are about to descend on Clacton. The story? Will ukip manage to get its first Member of Parliament elected. The issue? Europe or at least that is what ukip wants it to be and what the likes of Nick Robinson will want to talk about.
However, Douglas Carswell brought up the Bedroom Tax just after his defection. Despite voting strongly in favour of the Bedroom Tax (and the rest of IDS’s welfare ‘reforms’) in the House of Commons, Carswell says he is now minded to switch his position that of ukip:
“I used to be staunchly in favour of the bedroom tax and then I met a man who was living quite near here. He suffers from mental health issues, his partner died and now he is being forced to move out of a place he calls home. My heart actually was telling me about the bedroom tax: ‘Hang on a second,’ and now I discover that Ukip is against it as well.”
Carsewll was deaf to the many similar cases, anticipated by MPs and debated during the passing of the Bedroom Tax legislation. Carswell was all for it then and he has still not shifted to backing repeal, because ukip only says it will oppose the Bedroom Tax, even in Government. Like a lot of ukip policy, it is a case of trying to be all things to all men (and sometimes women). In other words, Carswell proposes to switch his position to a middle of the road one. A position that would, even if ukip came into Government, leave the legislation in place and still causing misery and death. Is this a sign to the Tory Party that their opposition to the Bedroom Tax policy is one policy that ukip would be happy to negotiate away in any post May 7th negotiations about coalition with the Tories?
Apart from possibly sending a signal, Carswell may have revealed a concern about a possible campaign issue. An issue that might well help to reduce his chances of being returned to Parliament. An issue, that if brought up at every opportunity during the by election campaign, would smoke out ukip’s stance on Social Security once and for all. In the process, ukip might find its position driving away supporters. Will it be seen as weak on welfare or a party wanting to go further than IDS. Either way ukip jumps, it stands to lose support
Why might the Bedroom Tax be an issue in Clacton out on the stump? Unemployment, using the monthly JSA count figures is relatively low. Clacton is ranked 173 of the 651 Parliamentary seats. The higher up the charts you are, the higher the proportion of the working age population, using the JSA figures, who are out of work. However, the total number of people of working age on Social Security (scroll down the page) such as ESA propels Clacton much higher up the charts.
Until now there was not an opportunity to send a clear and direct message to Parliament about the Bedroom Tax. However, Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions intends to put down a motion in the House of Commons that would repeal the Bedroom Tax legislation. Nick Clegg’s wobble over the Tax earlier in the year means that repeal is much more likely than at any time since the introduction of the Bedroom Tax. Therefore, a vote for Labour in Clacton that returns a Labour MP into Parlament might well further improve the chances of repeal before next May.
Ah John, you say, Labour are not to be trusted on matters like the Bedroom Tax. Well now is a chance to see if Labour will do its best before next May to do what is says it would do after May 7th next year. If it does not, then voting for Labour in Clacton will only return a Labour MP for a few months and the voters of Clacton may hold that person to account on May 7th next year.
I say to the cynics and the apathetic, voting for Labour in Clacton in the upcoming by election is surely a small price to pay for possibly bringing the end of the Bedroom Tax a bit closer? And, in stopping ukip in their tracks then you send a clear signal to ukip that they cannot ignore your votes and that they should think again about the negative attitudes they so often display towards People With Disabilities, the LGBT and BEM communities, women and quite a few elderly people too.
There is plenty that people may do to put the Bedroom Tax front and centre in this by election campaign. For example, pester ukip at every turn out on the campaign trail; get involved in radio phone in programmes; write to your local newspapers and Carswell; e-mail Carswell; approach him on Facebook; Tweet him; petition him; stand behind him at every turn with placards, particularly during interviews with the media and gatecrash his press conferences. In short, make the issue of the Bedroom Tax a nightmare for him, both day and night, throughout the campaign! Who knows, if he is returned to Parliament, he might undergo a Damascene conversion and abstain on a vote about the Bedroom Tax and possibly, just possibly vote against it.
Help send a message to Farage, Carswell (and Clegg) that, as Aneuran Bevan observed, people who stand in the middle of the road get run down!