Will housing ride to the Tories’ rescue again?

I was reading a very interesting pamphlet this morning by Labour MP Gregg McClymont and Ben Jackson.

The pamphlet tries to look at the lessons of past periods of economic austerity and Tory government.

They ask a key question: How have Tory governments succeeded in being re-elected in the past, during periods of high unemployment, economic stagnation and deep government cuts in public services?

It’s a good question. Britain’s worst economic periods have been presided over by Tory governments racking up consecutive election victories. In the 1930s The Tories won in 1931 (Tory dominated National Government) and 1935 (the largest ever Tory majority). In the 1980s and early 1990s of course they won four in a row.

The authors give a range of reasons for this. One of these is that even in economically dire times the Conservatives have managed to increase the prosperity and stability of some key groups in society, who then supported them strongly. Critical to this has been increasing homeownership.

In the 1930s the boom in suburban house building created a new class of homeowners and pushed homeownership further down the income scale. In the 1980s, the Conservatives repeated the trick, not by building more homes, but creating 2 million working class homeowners through right-to-buy.

Could that happen again? Well, they may manage to build a coalition of those less affected by austerity and stagnation, but I can’t see how housing will be part of it. The prospects for more house building are grim and despite their attempt to warm-up right-to-buy this could only be at a fraction of the scale of the 1980s.

But it is a lesson for Labour too. If you can provide people with a quality, secure home that they feel they can call their own, you can change the shape of the political landscape in fundamental ways.

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One Response to Will housing ride to the Tories’ rescue again?

  1. Jamie L says:

    I would say that this argument is flawed from the start, Labour should look at themselves and why they were not re elected, in this instance, the current coalition government was elected on the backdrop of labour returning the British economy to ‘Boom and Bust’ economics. In short, meaning that the voting public no longer (whether rightly or wrongly) had faith in Labour’s economic polices, coupled with the Election campaigns of Labour that promised more ‘Doom and Gloom’ under a Conservative government that never came to fruition, this further emphasised Labour’s inability to run the British economy in the eyes of the voter.

    In order for Labour to beat this cycle I would propose that rather than play the political points scoring games that leave the voter at best disinterested and at worst numb, Labour should engage the British public by means of clear and realistic goals and more importantly rewarding those that work hard and play by the rules, as I feel under the last Labour government their was a ‘Nanny State’ mentality that played into the hands of those that ‘take, take, take’ rather than making life easier for those that can and should help themselves, allowing more time to address those that really can’t ‘help themselves’.

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