Earlier this month the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Raquel Rolnick, reported on UK housing conditions (including the implications of the Bedroom Tax).
After talking to ministers, civil servants, tenants, experts and activists she announced a scathing verdict on the Bedroom Tax: “I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why — being so vulnerable — they should pay the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying, ‘I have nowhere to go’, ‘I will commit suicide’.”
Rolnick, formerly housing minister in Brazil, and a member of the reformist Workers’ Party, called for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped.
The Tories and the right wing press were livid. Tory Chairman Grant Shapps appeared on the BBC Today programme, not to respond to her report, but to rant about her being “a woman from Brazil” and to demand from the UN “an apology and investigation into how this came about”.
Even more sexist, racist, and bizarre was a Daily Mail headline that accused her of being a “dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Karl Marx”. The details in the article were actually much more mundane.
As a young woman Rolnick developed an interest in Candomble, a Brazilian religion which originated with African slaves. She once carried out a Candomble rite to help with a university study on Marx.
For campaigners, Rolnick’s intervention is welcome and keeps up the pressure on a Government that is already on the defensive about the policy.
This is why it is so important that Labour is pressured to pledge to repeal the Bedroom Tax.
On the ground campigners remain determined to force social landlords and councils to pledge not to evict Bedroom Tax victims.