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Why we’re evicting the housing minister Robert Jenrick – #EvictionResistance

“Over the coming weeks, we face the horrifying prospect of 1000s of families being evicted during a pandemic… the government are happy to prioritise the profit of landlords over the safety of renters.”

By Darran McLaughlin, Momentum NCG

On Monday, we evicted the housing minister. 

Half a million renters face being thrown out of their homes as the eviction ban ends – and now he knows how they feel.

Over the coming weeks, we face the horrifying prospect of thousands of families being evicted during a pandemic. With the Indian variant still circulating and the economic effects of the Covid crisis still impacting the livelihoods of millions, the government are happy to prioritise the profit of landlords over the safety of renters.

The 1% have never had it so good. During the pandemic, UK billionaires have added £107bn to their collective wealth, while working people have had to suffer the worst impacts – from unemployment to ill health and now potential homelessness. The complete lack of financial support for renters to cover lost earnings over the last year – while landlords were given a mortgage holiday – is wholly indicative of the Tories’ priorities. It could not be clearer that our economic system works for the few at the expense of the many.

But the mega-landlords won’t have it all their own way. From the start, the goal of our Eviction Resistance campaign has been to defend renters during the pandemic. Alongside the rest of the housing movement, we created the pressure that led to the creation of the eviction ban and then its repeated extension. But now, we’re transitioning to a new phase of the campaign.

We won’t stand by as our communities are hit by a tidal wave of evictions. Instead we’re going to organise across the country to support tenants unions when they take direct action to block evictions. 

Street protest and direct action are an important part of Momentum’s strategy for the coming years. The Eviction Resistance campaign has brought together activists up and down the country to launch actions that shine a light on the behaviour of billionaire landlords and their bought-and-paid-for political elites. On our day of action in April, there were 10 different protests happening simultaneously, as we named and shamed local mega landlords for trying to evict tenants during a pandemic. Our activists have also advanced the interests of renters within the Labour Party by bringing renters’ rights motions to branches and by applying consistent pressure to Labour councillors and MPs in meetings. 

Momentum understands the importance of working with trade unions, tenants unions, civil society and anti-racist groups to build a broad movement that can bring about transformative change. It’s often overlooked, but a significant reason we weren’t able to win in 2019 is because our movement simply wasn’t big enough. During the height of social democracy in the middle of the 20th century, there was a mass trade union movement with an increasingly militant rank and file, and in the 1960s and ‘70s growing feminist and anti-racist movements. Their collective social power, and the threat it posed to the ruling class, was a key factor in winning social democratic reforms. But the neoliberal backlash that followed led to the crushing of the trade union movement during the miners’ strike and the weakening of our movement as a whole. 

Our job is to build it back. The movement that coalesced to support Jeremy Corbyn between 2015-2019 was just the beginning. Trade union membership is up three years running; tenants unions continue to grow in strength; and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have totally changed the conversation around race in this country for the better. Younger generations are taking to the streets for Kill the Bill protests and Free Palestine demos in their hundreds of thousands. There is a radical energy there that Momentum will do all it can to harness. 

Our eviction notice protest is an example of how that work has already begun. For the Eviction Resistance campaign we have mobilised hundreds of members to support the work of Acorn and London Renters’ Union and the brilliant things they do in standing up for renters’ rights. But not only do we want to offer our practical support, we also see our role as acting as a bridge between extra-parliamentary struggle and the Labour Party, helping to channel the demands of social movements and working class communities into the Party’s platform. A timid Labour Party that does all it can to distance itself from grassroots movements is a route to failure. But one that listens and mobilises grassroots support is how we really make change in this country. 

Organisation is changing – we didn’t have the grassroots strength we needed in 2019, let’s build it now 

Robert Jenrick has failed to protect private renters during a pandemic, leaving hundreds of thousands in arrears. Over half a million people have gone into rent debt during the pandemic through no fault of their own and now face losing their home. 

Fortunately for Robert Jenrick, he will be able to rely on a roof over his head now the ban on evictions ends today.

During the pandemic, UK billionaires have added £107bn to their collective wealth. Meanwhile, working people have had to suffer the worst impacts – from unemployment to ill health and now potential homelessness. 

It could not be clearer; our economic system doesn’t work for the many – it reinforces the domination of the few.  

We are taking this action to demand Robert Jenrick and the Government provide much needed support for tenants in rent debt.  Throughout the pandemic the Tories have handed out contracts to their mates worth many millions, whilst renters have received no financial support, to avoid a full scale crisis this has to change.

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