Hilary Benn writes for South Leeds Life


South Leeds Life is pleased to tell you that Hilary Benn, MP, has agreed to write a monthly article for us – here’s part one of the first one!

Hilary Benn, MP tries one of Cllr Angela Gabriel's chutneys at the Beeston Festival 2013
Hilary Benn, MP tries one of Cllr Angela Gabriel’s chutneys at the Beeston Festival 2013

Comment logo 1Apparently, 8 million people have so far viewed Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Russell Brand on You Tube. I was both intrigued and rather downhearted to hear this because when I watched it, I heard Russell Brand say that voting is a waste of time and that politicians are generally speaking frauds and liars. Now forgive me if I am a little bit sensitive on the latter point, but on the former he is just plain wrong. I cite in evidence the National Health Service, the minimum wage, neighbourhood policing, gay marriage and civil partnerships, the winter fuel payment that pensioners get to help them pay their energy bills and many, many other things I could mention.

Russell Brand is perfectly entitled to have his own views about the state we are in and who is to blame – and he is a very engaging man – but I do mind him rubbishing the best and only hope we have got of dealing with the problems we face and building something better – namely a political system in which we all have a part to play. And, yes, that includes a responsibility to vote.

Here’s a practical example. This week we have been debating the bedroom tax in the House of Commons. It is affecting a large number of families in South Leeds who have three things in common. They live in social housing, they are on a low income and they have a spare bedroom or two where their children or grandchildren might come to stay, or a carer when they are feeling unwell.

The government has decided to charge them extra rent for their spare bedroom(s) in an attempt to force them to move house. The problem is there aren’t enough smaller properties in Leeds for the people affected to move to. Even if the council did nothing but allocate one bedroom flats to those people living in our city who, according to the bedroom tax, should move to a one bedroom flat, it would take nearly 10 years to get them all into a new home. Meanwhile, they are stuck and struggling to pay the tax and, in practice, many of them want to stay where they are because it’s their family home where they’ve lived for many years. It’s exactly what we would do if we found ourselves in the same position.

Two thirds of the people affected are disabled, and a woman who is in a wheelchair came to see me at one of my recent advice surgeries. Her home has been adapted, and if she were to move – she doesn’t want to – then that new property might need to be adapted all over again. What on earth is the point in doing that ?  Whichever way you look at the bedroom tax and the effect it is having on our neighbours and friends in South Leeds, it is immoral, unfair, undermines family life and communities, and it doesn’t work.

So, you may ask ‘what can we do about it?’. The answer lies in the political process. On Tuesday, I voted for the bedroom tax to be scrapped. Unfortunately we lost by 26 votes, but the campaign will continue and we are committed to getting rid of it. That’s what politics is for; to enable people to campaign to change things, build something better, right a great wrong, or lay the foundation for something that will improve our lives and that of our neighbours.

 Any comments? Part two tomorrow…

20 Replies to “Hilary Benn writes for South Leeds Life”

  1. I think it’s a good policy. I can’t see any reason why the state should provide/subsidise spare rooms for people.

    1. It’s an ill considered policy that forces children to share a room, no matter how small that room is, until they are 16 years old.
      It also penalises people who are already vulnerable for not having a smaller property to move into.
      The labour council in Leeds could have done something about this many years ago when it first became apparent that we don’t have enough social housing but no, they spend on vanity projects that make little real difference to real peoples’ lives.

  2. Great to see Mr Benn posting on here.

    I don’t always agree or feel much of a connection with politicians, but I always vote. I was always told right from being a kid that it was important to have your say and that people around the world had died for having the same rights and privileges that we have here.

    I do sometimes think it’s a shame that apathy and cynicism dominates the thinking of some people – although clearly politicians have a large part to play in changing this thought process around.

  3. I agree that the bedroom tax needs to go, it’s a complete travesty of social justice, and I’m happy that Labour is committed to its abolition if they win in 2015. One question, though: if the party feels so strongly about this, why were there 47 Labour MPs who didn’t attend for the vote? That would have made the difference.
    It’s fine saying engage with the political process and vote, but when MPs simply don’t show up for crucial votes, they’re not exactly doing the job they’re paid to do, and that we want them to do. Under those circumstances, is it any wonder that people become so disenchanted?

  4. I agree with the above comment. If Labour felt that strongly about the plight of the people affected by the bedroom tax ALL Labour MPs would have been out voting to abolish it, it’s yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another.

    On another note when did this site become a voice for Labour Politicians to do their campaigning, I thought this site was non political?

    1. Thanks for your comment Louise. We think it’s important that you can read the views of our elected representatives. South Leeds Life does not intend to be a mouthpiece for the Labour Party or any other party and as we approach important Council and European elections next May we are debating how we can best keep our readers informed of the issues whilst keeping out of the political bun fight.

  5. After being told repeatedly that you want to keep the site non-political, I was more than a little concerned to see Hilary Benn have a column on the site.
    I also think that your wording is very telling in that you “can read the views of elected representatives” . This implies that you wish to allow only Labour politicians to contribute (for that’s all we have in south Leeds) and therefore keep the status quo and don’t intend, as John above states, to invite all local candidates to make a contribution.
    By default then, the position you have taken is a Labour biased one and not in keeping with your own charter.
    The plot thickens I think.

    1. Hilary Benn has been offered a monthly column because he is the local Member of Parliament. His column obviously reflects his views – we welcome comments on what he writes and will publish those comments unless we believe they break the law or are a rant. When there are elections (for local councillors or a general or European election) we will offer each candidate the same opportunities as each other to present their policies and views on the blog and suspend the MP’s column. I hope this clarifies the position.

      1. I disagree Jeremy. It is plainly biased as it is a main article that is publicised along the scrolling bar at the top of the site.
        If he is expressing his views then surely they should be submitted via the community reporters process and not apparently endorsed by SLL.

        I certainly hope you laid down some ground rules with him as you do with other people who want to help and contribute to the site. Perhaps particular political parties shouldn’t be mentioned in his column?

  6. When did this become a platform for a political campaign/opinions? Can you open monthly columns for other political parties?

  7. I agree with John, above about this…I was of the understanding that this site was supposed to be non-political??? However I now find that Hilary Benn MP has a column on here!!! To keep things on an even keel shouldn’t all candidates running also be able to air their views? Only then will we be given a true representation of what really is going on in South Leeds…..

  8. I have been a resident of South Leeds for most of my 38 years, seen councillors of the Labour party come and go, but what in reality have they done for the area? We don’t see any real credibility in their words or actions and only new taxes created or the one’s we have increased. Mr Benn’s view’s unfortunately cannot be anything but politically motivated. Until he actually gets down to the “nitty gritty” of “real South Leeds life” he and the 47 Labour MP’s who didn’t bother to turn up to vote, have no idea how hard life is for us…. Don’t normally get involved with politics but sick of out of touch MP’s thinking they know all about their voters and then “fish for votes” like they know what’s best for us!

  9. Does Hilary Benn actually live in south Leeds ?? I don’t think so. He probably lives in some upper class leafy suburb and knows nothing about living in a multicultural melting pot.

  10. I don’t see any great problem with allowing elected representatives with an opportunity for dialogue on here, as long as its prefixed with the usual disclaimer of no endorsement, comments section open for debate and reply by anyone disagreeing with points and a fair platform for all around election time. Besides, nobody forces you to read any articles here… if you don’t like politics, just ignore!

    1. I agree that for most sites that would be true but for one that states

      “We don’t allow comments on party politics and our readers tell us they like it that way”

      This seems like a direct conflict with the stated position of the site, and appears to denigrate their claim to be without political affiliation. Perhaps if that ethos has changed, then the “About” section should be re-written.

      1. I’m sorry Craig but as UKIP candidate for Middleton Park ward in the local elections in May I think you’re just trying it on.

        Local MPs (and indeed councillors) have had columns in the local press for years and years – it’s one way of allowing readers to do exactly what they’re up to or where they stand on a particular subject.

        I’m with Silver Machine on this one – he’s using some commonsense.

        I’m not a Labour supporter and I aren’t particularly political but I find it informative that our MP writes a column. I don’t always agree with him, but hey, that’s democracy for you!

        I think if SLL were featuring regular columns from existing councillors up for election that would be a different matter.

        BTW Craig, great to see how you’ve started to comment regularly on SLL in the past few months … I’m sure that has nothing to do with the forthcoming elections at all… (and politicians wonder why people don’t vote any more). Nice try though!

        And YES Jeremy Morton – it would be great to see a comprehensive guide to ALL the candidates at the next election. What a good idea! You wouldn’t find that kind of information anywhere else and it would allow people to make informed choices at the ballot box which is EXACTLY the sort of thing this website should be doing.

        1. You can think what you like Leonard but had you been a party to some conversations between Jeremy, Steve and myself you may have a slightly different take on the matter. I will point out again that the site states itself to be apolitical.
          Hilary Benn having a column/blog on here has no real implications for any political aspirations that I may have, as he’s way above my political pay grade and unlikely to lower himself to swatting me aside. I should also point out that as of yet I am still not an official candidate but just the lowly local representative. I do however, hope to remedy this in the not too distant future.

          I started to comment on SLL when I first found the site, and nothing in my comments are particularly political although admittedly, it was my disdain of the current political mess and my need to do try and do something about it that opened my eyes to many local issues and projects. South Leeds Life is just one of the organisations that I found and became involved with but, it is the only one where I voice an overt opinion.
          As for commenting in recent months (almost a year in advance of the the local election was my first comment), I think you overestimate the reach of SLL in MPW. I am well known in Middleton and have lots of family in Belle Isle so I don’t imagine for a minute that a few comments on here will mean the difference to any election I may be involved with.
          If you read the evening post you may find some more political comments and letters I had published. I use that as it’s potential reach is greater.
          Nice of you to try and make me out to be subversive and sneaky though, instead of concerned and vocal….there is a difference you know.

          BTW I’m not a politician and don’t aim to be. I would like to be a councillor and actually do the bidding of the constituents though, not the bidding of the party I’m affiliated with.

  11. I look forward to South Leeds Life contacting local candidates. Contact me if you want local or Euro candidates near May 2014.

    David Smith
    Leeds Green Party

Comments are closed.