By Martin Kelly
Pressure has increased on the Labour Party after a national newspaper revealed that its UK leadership actively prevented the Scottish party from criticising the Bedroom Tax for a full year.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Ed Miliband barred Johann Lamont from speaking out against the Bedroom Tax while he pondered what Labour’s policy on it should be.
The newspaper said a source close to Ms Lamont told a reporter: “They told Lamont not to condemn it (the Bedroom Tax) for a year while Ed made up his mind.”
The revelation will pile pressure on Ed Miliband’s party which is still reeling from the shock resignation of its leader in Scotland. Claims that Ed Miliband issued a ‘gagging order’ preventing Scottish MSPs and MPs from speaking out has been seized on by Labour’s opponents, with the SNP branding the revelation ‘astonishing’.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“This is an astonishing revelation which demonstrates both how much the London leadership pulls Labour’s strings in Scotland, and how totally out of touch Ed Miliband is with the people of Scotland. Mr Miliband must come clean on this claim as a matter of urgency.”
If true, then the claim could prove devastating for some Scottish Labour MPs whose constituencies include some of society’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The Bedroom Tax effectively led to benefits being cut if tenants were deemed to have had a spare room.
In May this year the Scottish Government announced it would make available a total of £50 million to help the 72,000 households in Scotland who were suffering from the effects of the tax. The move followed pressure by the SNP for Westminster to transfer the reserved powers needed to lift the cap on Discretionary Housing Payments.
Labour had faced criticism after the party stalled on whether to confirm they would scrap the legislation if they came to power. The issue dogged the party throughout 2013 when public anger grew over legislation many felt targeted the weakest in society.
In September 2013 there was further confusion after Labour MSP Jackie Baillie was slapped down when announcing on a radio interview, that Ed Miliband would scrap the Bedroom Tax. A London spokesperson for the party responded to the interview, saying “It goes against what we are saying – we haven’t made that pledge to date,” the spokesperson added that Ms Baillie had “gone a bit too far”.
However, within a week Ed Miliband announced that Labour would indeed scrap the Bedroom Tax if he came to power.
Mr Stewart added: “Labour’s stance on the Bedroom Tax is simply breathtaking – after they finally decided they were against this unfair tax it had already caused misery to many of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
“Labour’s problems in Scotland are mounting up – they are in meltdown, and the blame lies squarely at the door of Ed Miliband.”