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Summer 2013

The newsletter of the Christian Socialist Movement

Inside This Issue: The Ballot Result CSM Director Andy Flannagan writes about the CSM name change ballot

Housing Rev Dr Kirsty Thorpe writes a theological reflection on Isiah 65 and housing

The Bedroom Tax Rob Carr on the devastation to community being caused by the bedroom tax

Our Conference Plans See full details of CSMs’ fringe programme for Labour’s Annual Conference 2013

- The Director’s Notes - A Theological Reflection On Housing More on housing: Members’ contact details - Arbitrary, Spiteful & Deeply Cynical: The Bedroom Tax CSM’s Gala Fundraising Dinner - Details of CSM’s Conference Fringe Events

Christians On The Left - The Christian Socialist Movement

However we are of course aware that a number of our members did not vote for the new name for various thoughtful and legitimate reasons.

Do you agree that the name of CSM should be

Many of you who voted “No” assured us by

changed to ‘Christians on the Left’?

phone, email and letter of your continued

to so many of you over the course of this



support nonetheless. You mentioned that though

process. I have been hearing the stories of how



you would prefer us to stay as CSM, or take

our members are engaged in many different

another name, that our aims, impact and unity

ways from the Shetlands to Cornwall! We are

as a movement were more important than a

running foodbanks. We are campaigning

The returning officer’s full report is on the CSM

name. Our key Christian Socialist values which

against unjust cuts. We are drafting academic


we affirmed a few years ago are not changing,

reports on inequality. We are bringing hope to

and working for unity, peace and reconciliation

council estates. We are praying for politicians

are prime amongst them. This is a time when we

and politics. We are serving as school governors.

must practise those values that we preach, and

We are running social enterprises. We are

As you can see from the results above, a large

work together. We believe that future

standing as council and parliamentary

majority of members have decided that

generations will thank us for the sacrifice (for

candidates. I hope you are encouraged,

“Christians on the Left” is the name that we

some of us painful) that we have made to make

because I certainly am. If we haven’t been in

should move forward with. This has been an

sure that our values have the best chance of

touch with you by phone, it won’t be for want of

extensive and healthy process of consultation

being spoken for and lived out in the public

trying. Please do let us know your up-to-date

both on paper and in person. Through it we

square. The prize of seeing our nation

phone number and e-mail address.

have been able to reconnect with many

transformed for justice surely eclipses our

members, finding out how their skills and

individual passions.



passions can be utilised, linking them to other

Now that we know the result we are planning a launch for the new name in the Autumn. Watch

members with similar passions, and connecting

this space. If anyone would like to help in any

people up locally. It has been incredibly

In no way are we leaving our Christian Socialism

way with that process, then please do get in

encouraging to have these conversations. Within

behind. For example this autumn we are rolling

touch with us. We especially need people with

our membership, there is faith, intelligence, vision

out the Christian Socialism Basics Course all

design skills. This is an exciting time of great

and passion to see politics and our nation

across the country. We are encouraging all

opportunity for us, and we will all need to be

transformed. With regard to the name, in

members to invite friends and fellow church

involved, not just a few. Who could you recruit to

keeping with our democratic socialist values, the

members to do this excellent five-week course

“Christians on the Left”?

wishes of the large majority will now be carried

which covers the theological and political


fundamentals of Christian Socialism. If you need

I was standing outside the Royal Exchange in

the materials posted to you, or help to get a

London last week, and right at the top of the

As any of you that have been involved in

course going, then please call us at the office. As

building are carved the words, “The earth is the

naming anything will know, to get even a few

many copies of the course as you need can be

Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. Remembering

people to agree on something as subjective as

downloaded from

those words to be true has never been more

a name is incredibly difficult. That is why we have

important. A society falls apart when we forget

been hugely encouraged by the large majority


that. The systems of Jubilee and Sabbath were

for “Christians on the Left” both at the AGM (77


based on the fact that we are only tenants, not

votes to 6) and in the postal ballot, believing it is

land-owners. Hence the Israelites were only

quite a remarkable endorsement. It underlines

The bottom line with the name change is that as

returning something that was never

the appeal of the name and its ability to make

members we may notice little difference, though

permanently theirs in the first place. It was God’s.

us more inclusive, understood and able to

we may meet some new members who think

How we long, pray and work for that loosening

mobilise a generation of justice-seekers. This vote

the same way we do but were previously

of the grip to permeate 21st century society and

confirms our research that ‘Christians on the Left’

reluctant to join! The regular newsletters will

economics. How we need to steward rather

will be a clear and energetic name which will

come, the e-mails will still come. The local groups

than exploit this earth’s resources. Jubilee brings

draw more people to us.

will still meet and in fact there will be no

a stinging critique to so many aspects of

immediate requirement for branches to change

modern-day capitalism and we will be

Moreover, through the vote, commitment to

their name if they would prefer not to. The work

exploring this more in the coming months. May

Christian Socialism is now part of our constitution

amongst our MPs and peers will continue. We

you be blessed in your efforts to live and

are continuing our campaigns on credit unions,

campaign on the truth that “the earth is the

Christians on the Left is a Socialist Society

the bedroom tax, the financial transaction tax,


affiliated to the Labour Party. It is the continuation

and banking separation. Nothing changes on

of the Christian Socialist Movement formed in

those fronts. We are not diluting our message.

Bless you all,

Socialism, and the inheritor of the Christian

Thank you so much for your ongoing support. It


Socialist tradition in the United Kingdom.

really is vital. I have been so inspired in speaking

1960, and is the natural home of Christian

Are your contact details up to date? Often when people move house, change phone number or just get a new email address, CSM is low down the list of people to inform. During the recent member consultation and ballot process we found a number of people whose contact details had changed. It’s hugely helpful to us to get up-to-date information for us to ensure you, the members, are kept abreast of all that we are doing. If you receive this newsletter in the post, then you can even help CSM save money by making sure that , if you have an email address, you share it with us. We promise not fill your inbox up wastefully!

A theological reflection on housing recent economic recession began as a result of


unrestricted mortgage lending based on poorly What have words of Isaiah 65: 17-22, written in

secured loans in the US housing market? The

the Middle East some 2700 years or so ago, got

answer, in Isaiah's terms, must surely be that

to say to us about issues of housing in our day

people of faith need an approach to housing

and culture? Has the writer, who is addressing the

that's just and sustainable. Our TV programmes

returned exiles from Babylon about the problems

focus on rich individuals buying dream homes

of rebuilding the broken down capital of the

from their substantial budgets - half a million

Israelites in Jerusalem, a way of making sense to

pounds to do a barn conversion. 'Escape to the

us now? I think the remarkable thing is how

Country', 'Location, Location, Location', and

contemporary and attractive this manifesto

'Grand Designs' - they're all selling us the vision

sounds - an early version of the Millennium

of an ideal place for us and ours and never

development goals. The prophet's vision is of a better life for everyone. Isaiah dreams of God's new world where no more children will die in infancy, people will live to 100 and just be youngsters, nobody will work for a builder and yet not be able to afford their own house, nobody will work on the land but see their family going hungry. It's going to be a world where everyone lives to see the next generations grow up to be thriving and happy, a world where even animals will live in harmony together. Our visions are pretty similar, even now, and affordable housing is one key element of the picture. But the trouble is our world is a very different to that which the writer of the last chapters of the book of Isaiah was addressing. Building enough houses for the returning exiles of Jerusalem was one thing, though we don't know what the population of the city was at the time, but building affordable housing for people today is quite another. The big trend of our world is urbanisation, and it's happening as fast as when Manchester became the first industrialised city in the world - 'Cottonopolis' - in the 19th century. The world's biggest city now is probably Tokyo, with 28 million inhabitants. Next in size are probably Mexico City and Mumbai with 18 million, and then Sao Paulo with 17 million people. London is more of a Championship than a Premier League

capital city, in terms of population, though it's diversity in terms of the number of different races who live there is probably second to none. By now it's pretty certain that more than half the world's population live in cities and towns, and the overall figure could be up to 60% by 2030 - at which point it will be around 80% in this country, where the trend towards living in towns began so much sooner. And these people all need somewhere to live. In China, the population analysts predict that by 2030 there will be 350 million more people living in towns and cities than do so now, giving an urban total of 880 million. Housing these people will mean needing to build almost 50 cities the size of greater London. Nobody wants to build cities in deserts or on mountain sides, so it doesn't take much imagination to see how much agricultural land could be swallowed up by this urban drift. Shades of Joni Mitchell's 1970s song 'Big Yellow taxi' - 'they paved paradise - put up a parking lot' - or in this case, they put up a new city. So what do we do about this challenge? Can we risk giving everyone renewed hope of being able to live in their own home when the overall demand is so vast? Should we encourage home ownership at all when the

mind what happens to you and yours. It's a million miles away from Isaiah's vision. How about a series on regenerating a council estate or creating a new community of rented homes instead? I believe if we don't start to set some national standards of housing equity and affordability for all soon, we'll be storing up tension and division in society for the future, as the gap grows between the haves and the have nots. With our cities and towns filling up fast this need for fairness gets even more important. The alternative could be shanty towns appearing around British cities as happens so often now in South America, Asia and Africa. Is that what we want - a return for some to the living conditions of the back to back houses which Marx and Engels saw in Manchester 170 years ago when they began researching poverty here in Manchester? Surely Isaiah's vision is far more attractive and sustainable. I'd prefer to live in a world where people build houses and live in them.

CSM’s inaugural fundraising dinner July saw CSM hold our first fundraising dinner in many years and we’re delighted to report that it was a great success. The dinner was held at a Turkish restaurant at the back of County Hall just over the bridge from Parliament. Douglas Alexander, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, came and gave a great speech on the values of CSM and the important role of Christians in the Labour Movement. Wayne David MP hosted an auction where Andy sold a concert and Rob sold a pen-and-ink drawing as well as lots of other great lots. At the end of the evening there was a raffle which raised the last few pounds of our total of almost two thousand! Everyone tells us they had a great evening, made lots of new friends and raised important funds for CSM. Needless to say, we will be doing it again next year so pencil the second of June 2014 in your diaries now...

Arbitrary, spiteful and deeply cynical the bedroom tax That's 8 years of uncertainty, worry, and stress. 8

BY ROB CARR So Jean* who lives in a council house in

years of hunger, poverty and sleepless nights.

There's a slow, seeping, realisation in the UK

Basildon and has a room for her daughter who

media that a disaster of epic proportions is

serves in the Army overseas, will lose money

And not only that, but people face having to

heading for the British people. The tectonic

and maybe her family home. Her daughter

move whenever their family circumstances

speed of this realisation frustrates me

won't have a room to come home to. Or Tom

change! Family and community are the

immensely, because I've been shouting about

and Kirsty*, a married couple in Bermondsey,

elements that the government has missed in all

it for over a year now.

who have separate rooms because of Kirsty's

this. Forgetting community and concentrating

debilitating illness. Tom is her carer as well as

on commodity is a recipe for disaster. It's

You see this time last year, I was working in the

her husband. They will be penalised for that. Or

Goldman Sachs does social housing.

House of Lords doing research on the Welfare

Claire* in Bishop Auckland. She lives on

Reform Bill for a Labour Peer. I sat through the

Employment Support Allowance in an

Louise Baldock, a councillor in Liverpool, said

team meetings as Labour tried to halt the bill or

unemployment black spot. Her £66 a week rent

"Families are not rigid and inflexible, many

at least make amendments that would limit it's

is paid by Housing Benefit. From April, her

things happen which alter the ebb and flow of

damage. I met with concerned NGOs, sat

benefit will go up to £71.70. Out of that, she pays

accommodation, simple rules are not

through the committee stages and was

£10 a week for electricity and £6 a week for

appropriate. Family members move in, move

saddened to see it eventually pass through to

water rates. Like lots of people in Bishop

out and move on, and sometimes, very sadly

become the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

Auckland, she still uses coal for heating and 3

they die..... Strong communities are built where

bags will cost her £19.50 a week. Her bus fare is

people know their neighbours and look out for

During all those discussions, we could see the

£4 a week and her bedroom tax will be £9.24 a

them and wehere people have pride in their

damage the legislation would do and have

week. This leaves her with £22.96 per week.

streeet and their property. They establish roots, engage in the local Tenants and Residents

been talking and worrying about it ever since. The press, however, aren't interested in

Claire then shops at the cheapest shops in her

Association or neighbourhood watch and

something that's not going to happen for 12

area and buys washing powder for £1,

generally enjoy living where they do"

months. They need human stories and angles.

toothpaste for 15p, a toothbrush for 10p,

They like it to be current. Right now, not six

sanitary products for 40p, washing up liquid for

What will happen when communities are torn

months from now. After all, today's news is

5p, bin bags at 10p, bleach at 40p, cleaning

apart? What will a local society look like with

tomorrow's fish and chip wrapping and all that.

products at 50p, deodorant for 25p, shampoo

residents removed, hearts ripped out? The

for 40p, foil/cling film for 10p, and saving for

government have gone from preaching the Big

shoes, clothing and household items of £2.

Society to destroying local community. Andy

But now the media can see the headlines

Flannagan has already lost a key family from

around the Bedroom Tax. That leaves her £17.71 for food. That's £2.53 a

his council estate because of this tax. They are

That's because in April, the Welfare Benefit Act

day. Unless you're in similar circumstances to

now stuck some distance away from their

brought in an under-occupation penalty on

Claire, I doubt you've ever tried to live on £2.53

friends and their support.

people who claim housing benefit. This is

per day. I'm certain the Prime Minister or Iain

essentially a tax on those who rent homes in

Duncan Smith have never lived on £2.53 a day!

I think this bedroom tax may be the most despicable thing the government has ever

the social housing sector. Because of a national shortage of smaller

done and I hope more can be done before it's

We're not talking about a few hundred people

housing stock, tenants unable to afford to

too late.

here either. Around 660,000 will be hit by this

continue to rent their current properties in

tax. That's 20% of social housing tenants. Having

Basildon, Bermondsey and Bishop Auckland

* All the names used in case studies are

just one spare bedroom will mean a cut of 14%

and elsewhere could wait up to 8 years to be

fictional. The problems are not.

in your benefit. Two or more spare bedrooms


will see a 25% cut.

CSM at Labour Party Conference Once again, CSM is planning an exciting and busy set of fringe events at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference. As you can see below, this year we’re back in Brighton and will be kicking Conference off

with our annual church service at One Church Brighton on

Gloucester Place. The service starts at 10:30am where Pete Greig will be our main speaker. We’ll also hear from both International Justice Mission UK and the Medaille Trust on the vital work they’re doing in and around the trafficking of people. You can see more of what IJM UK do on the left of the page.

IJM proves justice for the poor is possible

We also have fringe events on domestic violence, the financial transaction tax, ‘responsible’ capitalism and how to keep money local. We’re delighted with our line-up and are looking forward to working with our partner organisations Tearfund, CAFOD, EDV, and the Robin Hood Tax Campaign as well as other friends and colleagues. We’d love to

An epidemic is raging against the poor in

see you there, so if you can make it to any of our events, do come and join in the

the developing world. But a basic, effective

conversations , debates and prayers. If you want any further information on the events, or

vaccine exists – a vaccine that protects us in

posters to display in your churches, then get in touch with us at the office on 0207 783 1590.

our own communities every day.

Without the basic protection that law enforcement provides, children and families will continue to suffer as common, everyday violence runs unchecked in their communities. JM’S UNIQUE SOLUTION Since 1997, IJM and IJM-trained partners have relieved more than 16,000 children, women and men from oppression in the developing world. IJM staff in the field – 95% of whom are serving in their own countries – collaborate with local police and government officials to rescue, restore and defend victims of some of the very worst human rights abuses: sex trafficking, slavery, child sexual assault, and violent land theft from widows and orphans. These abuses are against the law in the countries where IJM works; the laws are simply not enforced. IJM front-line staff come alongside local authorities to push cases of abuse through the local justice system and see exactly where the systems are failing to protect the poor. As they restore individual lives, IJM learns exactly where the local system is broken. This knowledge enables us to identify solutions that actually fix the problems and prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. Through this casework approach, IJM is seeing real change occurring around the world. Gradually, IJM is seeing it proven that justice for the poor is possible.

CSM News, Summer 2013  

Newsletter of the Christian Socialist Movement. Christian Socialist Movement, Politics, Westminster, Labour, Christian.