This year’s general election result was not so much about Brexit, but quality of life. Part of this debate centered on housing and that has continued in party conference season.
Indeed, there was something of a bidding war between Labour and the Tories over who could cobble together the best set of policies to fix our housing market. The issues that both aimed to address are most keenly felt in our capital, where demand is huge and available land is scarce.
Yet there appears to be a view that the problem is too large to fix in a single parliamentary or mayoral term. This should not be the case. It seems that the business of politics is getting in the way of finding a solution that actually delivers affordable homes. We need a strategy that can be agreed on by both sides.
Yet agreement is fraught, not just between the two parties but within the parties themselves. Local Labour councils are increasingly feeling the pressure of insurgent political forces. Local Labour councils are increasingly feeling the pressure of insurgent political forces from those on the left of the party, like Momentum, who are unswerving in their ideological commitments.
Capitulation to crony capitalism
Many see public-private partnerships as a vital tool in overcoming the vast problems around building affordable housing. Yet those on the left of Labour see any form of private intervention as a capitulation to crony capitalism. Earlier this month, lifelong trade unionist and chair of Hornsey and Wood Green constituency Labour Party, Steve Hart, was removed from his position by a new Momentum backed candidate.
The core of the campaign to remove Hart centered on Momentum’s opposition to the regeneration of local council housing stock through a 50:50 joint venture between the council and Lendlease. The council argues that they have the land to build but lack the financing and skills to effectively build at the required scale. The arrangement allows the local authority total control over every decision and a return on the sale of some of new homes. This will allow them to fund further building and regeneration projects in the local area.
The issues that those on the left of the Labour party seem to have is with the very idea of private involvement. But as the council has repeatedly stated, without outside finance and skills, this development just cannot go ahead. They have guaranteed that 40% of the homes will be affordable, calculated on incomes rather than local market price, and that every existing tenant will be given a guaranteed right of return on equivalent terms.
To solve the issues of today we need to work in today’s world
The question for these political insurgents is ‘what is the alternative?’ Without a fundamental shakeup of the way we run our country, with a centrally planned and a centrally executed economy, these kinds of schemes aren’t going to happen. To solve the issues of today we need to work in today’s world. The idea that a lifelong trade unionist has suddenly undergone a political rebirth and has become a stooge for big business is entirely fanciful. Without compromise, nothing can be achieved.
So, what London needs is local authorities that are willing to cooperate, to build a broad coalition that can create an enduring plan for solving these near intractable problems. To insist that everything is done your way is pure political adolescence. Moral piety doesn’t build the homes we need. Instead, our country needs ideological joint ventures.