Thursday 18 May 2023

This Land Was Made For You And Me

While Michael Gove moves to ban the section 21 evictions that a three-term Labour Government left in place, Keir Starmer has looked at those Conservative losses to the Greens, and he has thought, "I'm having some of that." Not gains from the Tories. Losses to the Greens.

Those losses bewilder me. Were those voters already true believers in anti-industrial Malthusianism, or where they were still just NIMBYs? Either way, they should have carried on voting Blue. Their turning against the governing party of anti-industrial, Malthusian NIMBYs is as baffling as Just Stop Oil's demonstration against the King.

The blockers are the builders. Property developers are hoarding land so as to maximise prices by restricting supply, thereby also thwarting competitors. Land banking is their business model. The Green Belt was a Labour idea. Look at it, and of course it was. But it is now a giant subsidy to horseyculture and golf. The State decrees and pays that more of Surrey be occupied by golf courses than by housing.

We need a minimum of 100,000 new homes every year for at least 10 years, including council homes with an end to the Right to Buy, with the capital receipts from council house sales released in order to build more council housing, and with councils empowered to borrow to that end. We need a minimum of 50 per cent of any new development to be dedicated to affordable housing, with affordability defined as 50 per cent of average rents. We need rent controls, action against the buying up of property by foreign investors in order to leave it empty, repeal of the Vagrancy Act, and the outlawing of practices such as "poor doors" and discrimination in children's play facilities based on the nature of their parents'  tenure.

We need a statutory requirement of planning permission for change of use if it were proposed to turn a primary dwelling into a secondary dwelling, a working family home into a weekend or holiday home; again, there are signs of progress here. Since the last century, I have been using the available platforms to call for this. If Gove is catching up, then I claim no credit. I am just very, very glad. The last Labour Government was completely unresponsive.

That requirement would set the pattern for the empowerment of the rural working class, assisted both by the Land Value Tax and by a windfall tax on the supermarkets in order to fund agriculture and small business, with strict regulation to ensure that the costs of this were not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities, or the environment. Rent-to-buy schemes also demand serious attention, and we should be setting up one or more non-profit lettings agencies.

"It is entirely undesirable," wrote Aneurin Bevan,"that on modern housing estates only one type of citizen should live. If we are to enable citizens to lead a full life, if they are each to be aware of the problems of their neighbours, then they should all be drawn from different sectors of the community. We should try to introduce what was always the lovely feature of English and Welsh villages, where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and the farm labourer all lived in the same street."

In 1979, two fifths of people lived in council housing, an impossible figure for a mere "safety net for the poor". Public provision, by definition, never is such a net. Not the NHS, not state education, not public transport, none of it. As recently as 1980, what is now a breathtaking 20 per cent of the richest tenth of the population lived in social housing. Now, after four decades of selling off the stock and of not building any more, the stringent criteria for new tenants effectively guarantee a large number of single mothers of dependent children who are thus unable to work full-time, if at all, and of people newly released from prison or newly discharged from psychiatric institutions.

Margaret Thatcher's assault on council housing is the one thing that her supporters still feel able to defend unconditionally. But in reality, it created the Housing Benefit racket, and it used the gigantic gifting of capital assets by the State to enable the beneficiaries to enter the property market ahead of private tenants, or of people still living at home, who in either case had saved for their deposits. What, exactly, was or is conservative or Tory about that? Or about moving in the characters from Shameless either alongside, or even in place of, the respectable working class? Shameless began under Tony Blair's model for any future majority Labour Government.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.


  1. "Now, after four decades of selling off the stock and of not building any more, the stringent criteria for new tenants effectively guarantee a large number of single mothers of dependent children who are thus unable to work full-time, if at all, and of people newly released from prison or newly discharged from psychiatric institutions."

    Very true, The current criteria also incentivise single motherhood and general welfare dependency. But you haven't mentioned the two elephants in the room.

    That the huge demand for housing is driven by erosion of the married family and the consequent rise in people living alone or apart and the huge and unsustainable levels of mass immigration including illegal immigration.

    1. This week ended immigration as an issue. Blackshirts are one thing, but no one wants to be associated with what we have just seen. Politicians can be sinister, but they cannot be ridiculous.