The UN Investigator, the "Bedroom Tax", and an Aggressive, Hostile Reaction.

Recently, UN special rapporteur Raquel Rolnik came to Britain to investigate the so-called "bedroom tax", the controversial government policy that sees people facing a reduction in their housing benefit for having "spare" rooms. Rolnik had five years experience of carrying out housing investigations in countries such as the U.S., Croatia, Argentina, Israel, Rwanda, Palestine, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Israel and Algeria, and the conclusions she came to about the situation in Britain were, to my mind at least, not that surprising.
She observed that the "bedroom tax" is causing great hardship and distress to some of the most vulnerable in British society. Some people she spoke to were reduced to tears by the situation they found themselves in, while others spoke of even contemplating suicide due to having nowhere to downsize to because of a lack of smaller housing. Rolnik stated that the policy could, then, form a possible violation of human rights and Britain, which formerly had a good record on social housing, could face "going backwards in the protection and promotion of the human right to housing."
Enter, stage right, various representatives of our government and sections of the media. Upon hearing such obviously left-wing views, Conservative chairman Grant Shapps wrote a complaint to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon insisting that Rolnik withdraw her report as it was politically biased and also because she had not met with relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy. Minister Ian Duncan Smith agreed, saying she had undermined the impartial reputation of the UN, while Tory MP Stuart Jackson called her a "loopy Brazilian leftie with no evidence masquerading as a serious UN official." This boorish name-calling continued with even more virulence in some sections of the media, where Rolnik was dubbed a "Brazil nut" who once dabbled in voodoo, offering animal sacrifices to Karl Marx. Other suggestions in the press (most notably, and unsurprisingly, from the "Daily Mail") included the recommendation that she might want to sort out Brazil before she started meddling in British housing.
Again not surprisingly, Rolnik said that she had never faced such an aggressive, hostile reaction from a country, and as is stated above, she's been to quite a few.
So, what to make of all this? Well, I for one can remember how the left came to be attacked during the Thatcher era of the '80s. "The Loony Left" was the epithet that I recall being used to discount and discredit those with an opinion different to that of the prevailing right-wing hegemony. Now, it seems, those days have well and truly returned. No matter that Rolnik might have a point, that she might even have unveiled the truth of the consequences of such policies, her opinions, perhaps simply because they oppose those of those in power, have been almost uniformly dragged through the mud. The truth is, though, that we need such voices to have a healthy democracy, to at least create some form of worthwhile debate. We need a vocal and resilient opposition if democratic values are to survive. It's just that in Britain, at present, that doesn't appear to be happening, and the resulting atmosphere of intolerance towards differing points of view is not at all a pleasant one.        


klahanie said…
Hi David,

Apologies for the length of time it took me to get to your very important posting.

The email I received in regards to the "Bedroom Tax" was in regards to the findings of Raquel Rolnik. I was asked for my input. Unfortunately, the time for me to reply had expired.

In short, the world needs to fully understand the atrocities happening in the UK. Where the vulnerable are being targeted with this farce that is the Bedroom Tax. You know of my plight and I will not rest until I see this corrupt bunch of idiots put on trial.

Cheers, David.

David said…
Hi Gary,
Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comment.
You'll be pleased to hear, though, that, according to my friend at the Pathways Group, the UN is now looking into the "bedroom tax" as a possible violation of human rights. I don't know what's going to happen, Gare, but it does at least sound like a step forward.
But now the Tories have announced at their conference that the long-term unemployed will have to work for their benefits. One wonders if this will include those with mental or physical disabilities. We wait with bated breath!
Thanks for commenting.
Very Best Wishes, your way,

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