John McDonnell is the most high profile politician to back a campaign urging renters to stop paying their rent if they need to prioritise food and other living expenses.

Former Labour chancellor John McDonnell is backing a call for tenants to break legal contracts and stop paying rent.

Along with a group of union leaders and MPs, he’s urging renters to prioritise essential spending instead of rent.

McDonnell says: “Renters are facing immense worry and hardship because of the pandemic. Radical action is needed to support them and nothing should be ruled out including suspension of rents, rent controls and of course, the longer term supply of the decent homes needed.”

London Renters Union is heading the charge to organise a rent strike movement, following the lead of activists in the US and Australia.

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It wants people to pledge online at www.cantpaywontpay.uk to withhold enough of their rent to meet their basic needs, including food and bills. Its open letter has been signed by Labour MPs including Clive Lewis, Kate Osborne and Ian Byrne, who want rent payments suspended during the crisis and the cancellation of rent debt.

The union says millions of people feel enormous pressure to prioritise rent over buying food. It points to its recent YouGov poll which discovered that two-thirds of people agree that there are circumstances where those who’re struggling to make ends meet should stop paying rent.

A spokesman adds: “We are ready to take further collective action if the Government fails to adequately address the growing Coronavirus rent crisis.”

Another campaign, backed by Open Labour and Momentum, is calling on the Labour Party to adopt a cancel the rent policy, and has been signed by thousands of members.

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