It’s come to light that new Labour leader Keir Starmer has already backtracked on one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key demands of the Tories during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But blink and you would have missed it.
Corbyn: always on our side
Where necessary rent payments should be suspended for a three-month period to enable people to feed themselves and their loved ones, and to avoid driving people into destitution; at a time of widespread job losses and wage cuts of at least 20%, it is not unreasonable for landlords – many benefiting from a mortgage holiday – to prepare for small declines in their regular income.
In other words, private renters should get three months rent free from landlords. But fast-forward to Wednesday 22 April, and Starmer quietly trashed this.
Enter Keir ‘Trasher’ Starmer
On Wednesday, whilst Keir Starmer received near-unanimous congratulations from the professional pundit class for his ‘grown-up’ and ‘forensic’ debut performance at Prime Ministers Questions, the Labour Party quietly confirmed that they had watered-down their position on renter’s rights during the COVID-19 crisis.
The policy has now changed from rent suspension to rent deferment i.e. Labour’s new policy is that renters should have to pay rent for their time spent occupying their homes during the crisis but not until a later date, with Starmer’s team calling upon the Government to “legislate for a further, manageable period for renters to pay back deferred rent”.
You can read Lavin’s full analysis here. LabourList editor Sienna Rodgers tweeted:
"Labour believe that alongside a halt to evictions, the government should enable the suspension of rental payments during this period where people are struggling to keep up, and legislate for a further, manageable period for renters to pay back deferred rent."
— Sienna Rodgers (@siennamarla) April 22, 2020
But hang on! Rodgers seems to be saying that Starmer’s new policy is actually the same as Corbyn’s, no? Except it isn’t. And Rodgers realised she had made a mistake, tweeting:
Those pointing out that Corbyn’s Labour called for rent suspensions – you are right, I should’ve noted that. The position did shift from supporting only deferrals earlier on (as set out in Corbyn’s letter) to later backing a three-month suspension.
— Sienna Rodgers (@siennamarla) April 22, 2020
So, it seems that Starmer’s capitalist tendencies are already shining through.
For the few and screw the many
As Lavin noted, landlords with mortgages have the ability to defer certain payments until the end of their mortgage’s life. In other words, possibly in decades’ time. So Corbyn and McDonnell’s approach seemed fairly reasonable. But enter the distinctly ‘pro-business-and-screw-the-poor-people’ Starmer, and this has changed. As Lavin summed up:
It is extremely disheartening to see that the Labour party appear to have already capitulated and taken the decision that, rather than the billionaires or Landlords, renters should foot the bill for the crisis and be thankful we are allowed to do so over a ‘manageable period’.
So, it seems protecting the interests of those with more power than the rest of us may be a feature of this new Labour Party. Heaven help us all.
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