Angela Rayner’s ‘good news’ on housing should scare the Tories

Last week, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting was on these pages, promising to embrace the private and independent sectors as part of his NHS reform.

This week it was the turn of deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner, promises to revolutionize the housing market.

Health care and housing are, by far, the two areas where Labor seems most serious about reform. They are well chosen, as they happen to be the areas most in need of reform.

But the election offers are different. The Tories should be worried if Streeting succeeds. They should be scared if Labor makes good on its promise to build more houses.

Tackling the horrendous inadequacy of the NHS would make life very good for the millions of patients treated by the system – and for the 1.5 million people who work within it, let down by understaffing, terrible hours and poor pay.

But this will be a painful process. Expect more strikes, more rollbacks, and a standoff if Streeting seriously overhauls the UK’s biggest institution, which has not produced meaningful efficiency gains for a long time.

Labor will eventually get credit for reforming the NHS – if they are willing to do what needs to be done – but they may face poll wobbles and electoral challenges long before the that day.

Housing is different: it’s the “good news” story that’s been waiting for years.

Yes, there will be many instances of local backlash, but the benefits of building on a massive scale would be felt quickly. If done right, that could be enough to turn young voters into lifelong Labor supporters.

If you didn’t read Rayner’s piece in this paper yesterday, you need to go back and look at it. It’s not just the promises made by the deputy leader – her promises stem from an analysis of the looming housing crisis, in fact.

This is the kind of piece you usually read from a policy analyst who has been tracking the consequences of Britain’s deeply broken housing market for years – or, occasionally, from a backbencher who reaches over the parapet to point out that there are people there. in their 40s who still don’t know when their deposit will be big enough to buy a small flat.

Rayner is not the first MP in her party to make such a strong case. Back in Theresa May’s years, Labor MP Siobhain McDonagh would say that he would turn up at the Conservative Party Conference to talk to the party community about the housing crisis.

In her view, MPs were not taking this issue seriously, so why not let them hear the case for building more houses from a Labor MP?

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer has spent months embracing the Yimby (Yes In My Back Yard) label.

It is a direct confrontation – and a warning shot – with the anti-building coalition, which has been very successful during the Tories’ time in power, ripping up planning permissions and stopping new building projects before they can even get off the ground.

Starmer has spent months embracing the Yimby label in direct conflict with the anti-construction coalition

Starmer has spent months embracing the Yimby label in direct conflict with the anti-construction coalition – Labor

But a real recognition of how much the housing crisis is putting young people back, and how the planning system needs to be reformed: it’s not something we’ve heard from a senior politician like this for a long time.

Before I go, there are plenty of holes in Labour’s plans – and indeed yellow flags that suggest they are not fully prepared to do what is needed to deliver 1.5 million new homes.

This week’s emphasis on a “Freedom to Buy” scheme is a cause for concern that Labor could fall into the same trap as the Tories in exacerbating the housing crisis.

The scheme – which extends the Conservatives’ “mortgage guarantee” by making it easier to get a mortgage with a 5pc deposit – is likely to have the side effect of keeping more demand in the market without doing anything about supply.

In this situation, some first-time buyers will be lucky to get on the property ladder – but many more could be priced out, as prices rise.

Meanwhile, the party’s intention to build many of these homes in “new towns” suggests a lurch towards state planning that doesn’t take into account where people actually want to live.

While there is much merit in the ambition to “level up” areas outside the South East, there is a risk that house building will become part of this strategy, and that houses will end up being built in areas that are not in high demand.

New homes must follow the market: it won’t happen the other way around.

But despite having some plans that are unlikely to turn the dial, it is significant that Rayner also mentions building on “greenbelt land” – bits of greenbelt that are just green.

It’s something Labor has talked about before: a willingness to defy housing and planning rules to build houses on intensively farmed agricultural land or derelict car parks that have somehow been classified as “green belt”.

But they did not need to deliberately refresh memories of the idea during an election – especially as it is one of the most controversial aspects of planning reform.

The decision to do so, once again, suggests that Labor is serious about recognizing the importance of adding to the UK’s housing stock – and shows a willingness to fight for the younger generations to do what is necessary made to build houses.

And maybe only Labor can have this fight. The party’s electoral base is not dominated by those who would prioritize, above all else, seeing the value of their homes.

Of course, if the polls are right, it is possible that Labor MPs will be representing some Nimby areas in what are considered comfortable Tory seats. If that day comes, it will be a true test of the party’s leadership to live up to the promises they made to achieve such a position.

If they are savvy, they will not think about the frustration with the status quo that they got into No 10; they will be thinking about the kind of legacy that could keep them there.

The most powerful, by far, is being the new home ownership party.

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