There has been a nasty attack on RMT General Secretary Bob Crow over the last few days, over the fact that he still lives in the same council house that he has always lived in, despite earning nearly £140,000 each year. I defend his right to stay in his home, and despise the attacks on him in the right wing press and by people who have probably never set foot in a council house.
This is simply an attack on Bob Crow because of his politics. He is part of 'the awkward squad' of union officials who over the last 10 years have been overwhelmingly elected by their unions to defend public sector ownership and the rights of working people. He is just a rare case who lives out his private life in concordance with this public life.
Thatcherism has been so successful at destroying the public goodwill towards social housing that very few people understand Bob's argument. He understands that council housing, under Housing Minister Bevan especially, was a plan that 'Working people, Doctors and Clergymen' (Bevan's noninclusive language, not mine) should live side by side. It was an attempt to do away with class division, not just be a way to house the poor and those who service the rich. It was an attempt to replace the dependency on vicious private landlords who grew rich off the poor, and not force everyone into 'private ownership'.
Bob Crow chooses not to be tempted to buy his home, or to invest in property. Most of his wages goes on social causes. (Like the Uruguayan President Mujica who gives 90% of his wages to good causes) Crow is not 'taking the house of someone who is more needy' but is articulating the rights of his members to affordable and secure housing. It is Tory and Labour policy over the last 30 years that has stolen the homes of the most needy.
I was brought up in council housing, and my mum, sister and her child still live in them. The Tory council in her town now plan to demolish their homes (and those of 300 families who live on the estate) to make way for a private development and force them to be rehoused in another development many miles away from where my mum earns her keep as a cleaner (meaning she will lose her job because she won't be able to cycle to work anymore, and there isn't a bus route)
The way people in Council housing have been treated is beyond belief. They are not cattle to be moved in and out of housing on a whim - these houses are their homes. Our homes should be secure and affordable. Bob Crow is not the problem, national policy is. The debate is never that rich people should be forced to give up their second homes because of the national housing crisis - instead we have the 'bedroom tax' that forces people out of their homes (often the most vulnerable and many being elderly or disabled) and now an attack on an individual who chooses to stick to the notion that a council house is not just a hand out from the state, but a hard fought for right for all people, regardless of income.
Bob Crow is a communist. He believes that things like housing, education, transport should be held in common. Though he is a pronounced atheist, he shares his lifestyle with the early Christians who (described in the earliest history of life after Jesus, the book of Acts) shared all they had in common and ensured that those in need were provided for. I think he should be applauded for his standing up for common ownership, and the right of all people to live on a place that they and their children can call 'home'.
Check out http://defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/
PS - Why does Bob Crow drink herbal tea? Because 'All Propertea is theft!'