Cast your mind back to those anxious days in April 2015 when we waited for May to begin and the election to end. On offer to the electorate were three competing visions for housing: Cameron’s pledge to build 200,000 starter homes; Miliband’s plan for 200,000 new homes and Clegg’s target of 300,000 homes. These figures are per year, giving an average of 684 new homes per day.
That’s a decent sized housing estate, every day.
Clearly this was not possible then, nor is it now. This gives Labour an opportunity to deal honestly with a load of problems the next few years have in store for us.
Firstly, despite the opinion polls and sections the press fawning over our new(ish)PM, I think the Tories are running on empty. Cameron never instilled his ideology into the party, there isn’t a counter narrative and ‘Mayism’ doesn’t exist. Brexit dominates everything all the time, as does the skirmishes it creates.
Given the predilection for internalism the Labour party has displayed since 2015, the Tories could be forgiven for forgetting what a decent policy challenge is like. Our response need to be from the heart, the head and to sound convincing.
We need to stop talking about homes as just numbers, and presenting them as easy to deliver. Building thousands of new homes means an opportunity to create a sense of space, community and civic pride if done right. That might come in handy against the ‘authentic working class voice’ UKIP have just elected Leader. It also means new jobs, accessible and potentially skilled, as well as security for existing business supply chains.
There are Council Leaders across London delivering thousands of homes, despite an almost crushing policy and economic environment. Metro Mayors will be in place next year and can emulate the good work by Mayor Khan (and James Murray). The Rt Hon John Healey MP knows his stuff and is a team player.
This is a great line-up to make the case locally, regionally, and nationally for new homes in every part of the country. Elected officials and the members who support them should understand the system, the emotional battles that go with development and reasons why tough decisions have to be taken. No CLP or Labour Group should be objecting to new homes being built to win a NIMBY vote. Theirs is a fickle kinship that settles with the most base of emotions.
We need to look and sound like we mean what we say: yes, land (some of it green) will be built on, yes, more homes mean additional school places and doctors are needed, yes, parking might get a bit tricky on a Saturday morning (because there are more people spending more money in local shops), and yes, there will be jobs created and new homes for people to have. Your house price will probably rise too.
There is no excuse not to be on the front foot with this issue. All over the country local plans are being formed, often in the face of local opposition. Brexit means economic uncertainty and potentially a reduced labour pool. The Tories locally – 2017 and 2018 are election years – will pander to those who want to see no change. UKIP will stir fear of the unknown in an unsavoury campaign pitting locals against outsiders. The Greens are blind to the housing crisis and don’t like development. Lib Dems will blow with the wind. We need to lead.
I want a Labour Party that wants to build all sorts of homes. Tall blocks, carefully regenerated estates, the best new affordable homes with public space to match and new settlements across the land.
We have done it before, and can do it again. Just like winning elections.