Episode #22: Ron Bailey – Successful campaigns against powerful opponents

19 February 2019

Ron Bailey, Parliamentary Campaigner

In this episode, I talk to Ron Bailey. This is a special one for me. Ron is a campaigning genius who has been possibly the most effective parliamentary campaigner of our time.

In his early years, Ron was one of the founding forces of the family squatting movement in response to truly awful slum landlords that blighted the lives of thousands of people at the time.

He went on to focus his attention on getting bills through Parliament – including getting a freedom of information bill through a hostile Thatcher government that had a massive majority.

In this interview, we talk about the factors that makes his approach successful, and why he has so often been able to succeed in the face of much more powerful opponents. However you approach change making in your own life, I think you’ll get a huge amount from it.

Show notes

Ron’s recent brush with a London bus (1:49)

How did the world look to the young Ron Bailey when he left school and looked ahead to adult life? (2:53)

How Ron came to be focused on the issue of homelessness and the housing crisis (4:30)

Having won the first campaign at King Hill, how Ron moved onto the next to support families, supported by the reputation of the earlier success (7:40)

How these beginnings led to the family squatting movement, and how it was supported by a medieval law (9:21)

How the campaign survived as the resistance against them got increasingly ugly and eventually won through (13:20)

The success of the campaigns to date lead to pragmatic and mutually beneficial deals struck in Lewisham (19:10)

How that deal established a common theme for Ron’s campaigns in that he finds allies in parts of the political spectrum you might find surprising (21:10)

The Community Rights Project that kickstarted Ron’s approach to Parliamentary campaigning and won his first big victory (22:33)

Ron’s process for Parliamentary campaigning (25:29)

Some of the additional campaigning details that made the difference in piling on the pressure (28:38)

Ron’s eight tactics to reliably beat an opponent (generally the Government) that is stronger than you (30:49)

Lessons from the Home Energy Conservation Act, and the crucial factor that swayed the then Secretary of State for the Environment (33:28)

The Road Traffic Reduction Acts, one successful and one of which was lost, even though a bill went through Parliament (34:12)

Why the Sustainable Communities Act is referred to by Ron as ‘the Pluto Act’, and why it’s his proudest achievement out of all the bills. (34:49)

How public meetings made the difference in winning support for the Sustainable Communities Act (37:36)

The public way that a number of MPs chose to recognise Ron’s achievements, and what he’s working on now (39:33)

How Eric Forth MP became Ron’s nemesis by using Parliamentary tactics to block his bills, and how Ron overcame his opposition (41:45)

How does Ron think about the current state of polarised politics, and what needs to be done to help us move forward (44:57)

Ron’s personal purpose (47:19)

One practical change Ron would bring about before hanging up his gloves (47:40)

Advice he would give to his younger self (48:16)

Impressive change makers Ron has been inspired by (48:38)

Books that have influenced Ron’s thinking and his life (51:02)


Some more background on the early homelessness campaigns

People mentioned

A.S Neill

Rosa May Billinghurst

Daniel Isaac Eaton

Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin