By Angela Haggerty
Glasgow Central Labour MP Anas Sarwar failed to show up for his own advertised constituency surgery on Friday after a small number of people gathered outside his office demanding an explanation for his failure to attend a crucial vote on the Bedroom Tax.
Mr Sarwar was one of 47 Labour MPs, ten of them Scottish Labour MPs, who failed to turn up for a crunch Labour party vote on Tuesday calling for the legislation to be scrapped, which then lost by 26 votes.
Just two days after the vote, anti-Bedroom Tax campaigners’ worst fears were realised when it emerged that Pollok resident Charlene Shearer had become the first person in Scotland to be evicted from her home after mounting rent arrears fuelled by the tax.
Ms Shearer was removed from her home at 10am in the presence of three police officers. A young widow with a teenage son, she was forced to spend the night in a hotel with no food facilities. Councillor Jim Torrance described finding Ms Shearer outside her home hours after the eviction in a state of shock.
SSP candidate for the Glasgow Shettleston Council by-election and a constituent of Anas Sarwar MP, Tommy Ball, said the public had a “deep sense of anger” that Mr Sarwar had been such a vocal opponent of the Bedroom Tax before failing to attend the vital Labour party vote calling for it to be abolished, and warned that voters would not forget what he described as a “betrayal”.
Mr Ball, who was at the demonstration outside Mr Sarwar’s office, said: “More than 40 people, including constituents, were furious to find that he [Mr Sarwar] had hidden from his scheduled, advertised surgery.
“There was a deep sense of anger at his actions in abstaining on the vote to abolish the Bedroom Tax, particularly as he has been one of the more vocal MPs on the issue. It’s difficult to come to any conclusion other than that he sees it as in his best interests for the 2015 election to have the Bedroom Tax still in place, so he can “oppose” it.
“While Sarwar hid, he left his office staff to respond to the demonstration from inside their locked office, keeping constituents out. Phone calls went unanswered as he continued to leave his constituents in the dark about the motivations for abstention.”
Mr Ball added that the SSP would continue to campaign for a no-evictions policy and condemned politicians that he said were failing to stand up for people in Scotland.
“The Bedroom Tax, in some ways, is more brutal than even the Poll Tax, attacking the poorest and most vulnerable. It speaks volumes that this privately-educated, hereditary MP doesn’t see it as important enough to turn up to a workplace for which we pay him over £100k a year in salary and “expenses” to attend.
“His constituents deserve answers. Instead, Sarwar is in hiding. As long as these answers are not forthcoming, we’ll be there each week to demand them. He can’t hide forever. Glasgow needs MPs to stand up for us. Anas, and the rest of the Timid Ten, failed. The Bedroom Tax would have been gone if they and their Labour colleagues had turned up to vote. They betrayed us. We’ll remember that.”