Huffpost UK Universities & Education
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gregor Cubie Headshot

Glasgow Against the Bedroom Tax - Back to the Grass Roots; Away From the Political Crevasse

Posted: Updated:

This week has seen Glasgow's protest against the 'bedroom tax' step up a gear.

But this has also caused cracks to appear in the road which, if ignored, could open up the kind of crevasse into which recent social justice movements, distracted by in-fighting, egotism and clashes of personality, have thrown themselves into headlong.

Signs were encouraging on Saturday when the hard core of the movement migrated to Dundee to lobby the Liberal Democrats' spring conference. It was a heartening if mostly ceremonial sign for the movement that the conference ignored the Westminster whip coiled menacingly above them by their leaders and voted to reject the under-occupancy charge, showing that the coalition's Muttley will not be wading in to free the Dastardly party from its current quagmire without suffering a near-schizophrenic crisis of conscience.

Plans for the Glasgow march at the end of the month are also taking shape; the sustained pressure on the council finally persuading them that the effort it would take to keep thousands of people away from George Square would cause more disruption than it would ever hope to prevent and it will now be the destination of the rally following the stomp from Glasgow Green.

Today also sees PCS workers downing tools and raising placards, displaying all too clearly the reluctance of government hatchet men to wield the axe and execute this remorseless austerity programme.

But while the grassroots of the campaign - the protests and the research and lobbying coming from NPOs - are almost without exception constructive displays of the fiscal impracticality and lack of a popular mandate to impose the 'bedroom tax', the political cadre running the West of Scotland anti-'bedroom tax' Federation threatens to astroturf over the hard working people who have created the very ground under its feet.

This week, four committee members - including the entire team behind the social media campaign largely responsible for raising awareness of the Glasgow movement and the lobbyists responsible for garnering the council's permission to march on George Square - resigned over the "politics" which sprung up in the first meetings of the Federation.

The four in question agreed to work with political party members on the condition that agendas which threatened to stray too far away from the issues into organisational or personal promotional exercises were kept out of the equation: today it seems that this is a promise they did not keep.

Some of them at least; certain campaigners have manfully kept their party allegiance to themselves.

A prominent former executive board member of the SWP identified several of his colleagues from my accounts of public meetings who had avoided identifying themselves as such, preferring to offer their experience of lobbying City Councils and avoiding evictions during protest movements dating back to the poll tax.

However, certain experienced campaigners struggle at times to keep a note of nostalgia out of their voices when recounting the Thermopylean struggle against the poll tax and pugnacious excitement occasionally overrides sympathy with people staring cold, hunger and even homelessness in its sweaty, overfed face.

The four who resigned from the Federation could never be accused of such grandstanding and will continue to run "a campaign that will unite Scots," and "commit to stopping the bedroom tax".

The success of those who have already protested is reflected in the increased media coverage that the campaign has received. The mainstream in Glasgow has been largely sympathetic although tends to take fairly broad swings at the issue leaving charities and other not-for-profit organisations to give the weaknesses of and alternatives to the tax a real surgical examination - including the revelation this week of splits within the Conservative Party over the 'tax'.

To finish on a personal note I'd just like to hold my hands up to a hypocrisy of which I was guilty over the course of my first two blogs. Having labelled the British media "iconoclastic" I went on to dedicate almost an entire blog to Tommy Sheridan - pointing out that he could be an asset to this campaign if he limited himself to providing the obliging media with anti-'bedroom tax' soundbites.

How foolish I was ever to presume that a man of such unparalleled, malignant narcissism could ever show such restraint.

Having crept around Gollum-like watching the political traffic of the past year from the roadside, he finally found a bandwagon to jump aboard and, without even bothering to think about the destination or route it might take, seized the reigns and rode off in the direction he thinks will bring him personal glory.

Am I wrong, Tommy? Please track me down if you think so and I'll gladly present your side of the story.

In the mean time, this is the productive Glaswegian campaign against the 'bedroom tax'. It is still growing from the grass roots, but so far that has been infinitely more successful than trying to astroturf over a crevasse.