You have to give it to Miliband, he does put a rabbit out of his hat at every big conference speech.
Credit where credit is due, he is pretty good at this.
Last year he led the political weather by promising a crazily dumb policy on freezing energy prices, with the potential to lead to early price hikes for consumers and supply issues – as if the total mismanagement of energy supply under the 13 years of Labour government hadn’t done enough to damage the energy market.
Hilariously ironic that he raised this as an issue given that Ed Miliband himself did most to increase energy bills all by himself in the name of climate change.
Remember – not one new power station built under Labour from 1997 to 2010, despite the relatively benign economic conditions for most of that time.
This is a useful graphic to see how and when energy prices increased:
Onto this year, and you won’t believe this but Red Ed is evoking the spirit of none other than…as you may have guessed from the title – Margaret Thatcher.
Copied straight from the Margaret Thatcher textbook is the speech’s probable headline to build up to 200,000 more new homes every year – albeit only to be reached by 2020. Also using new home corporations, forcing companies to use land or lose it and also a new generation of garden cities.
This is clever politics. I don’t think any of this is new policy from Labour but to lead on it and evoke the spirit of Thatcher is a clever ruse to appeal to the floating voters.
But can you trust Labour on housing? History says no – even the Guardian harshly criticise the previous Labour administration.
This simple chart shows how population growth shot up under Labour (open door policy – another blog for another time!) and house-building didn’t keep up.
But even more shockingly given the demographic that Labour are supposed to support – only 6,330 council houses were completed in the 13 years that Labour were in charge. Mrs Thatcher built 17,710 in 1990 alone.
Then again my beloved Tories don’t exactly have a lot to shout about either so far this parliament. Yes, planning rules have been relaxed – lessening the burden of Labour’s regulation upon home-builders – one particularly interesting policy is that of being able to turn unused town centre offices into flats, something that is being put to good use here in the town on Reading, where I live.
However nowhere near enough is being done to increase the supply of housing, for both the wannabe home-owning classes, particularly the under 35’s – and also social housing for those in need.
I wrote to the Tory party early a few years back to try to encourage them to take housing as seriously as the economy in general, as this is not only a vote-winner but a really significant problem on many levels. Possibly the biggest problem facing the UK outside of our debt.
I believe in market solutions, however I also believe that government should step in where markets fail. Markets are clearly failing to build enough houses to meet demand, and have failed for around 2 decades, so my policy suggestion is for the government to set a target for each year, and any undersupply would then subsequently be funded and built by government.
My expectation is that this would nudge builders to make more use of their land and get the necessary houses built without much, or hopefully any building from government.
I would set a target of 200,000 at first and 250,000 by 2020. Should recession occur then the target would be temporarily relaxed.
I like the garden city idea –I particularly like the idea that won the Wolfson economics prize recently to see 80,000 homes added in 40 towns and cities, including my home town of Reading. It’s a shame the housing minister has dismissed the idea.
Controversially we should also build on 2% of the green belt. It isn’t that much. Housing is more important than 2% of the green belt.
With regards to social housing, I would like to see local authorities being able to borrow against future rents to build more where there is legitimate demand for social housing – for those in need, not those in want. There was a change in this direction in the Autumn statement last year but more could be done.
I doubt the parties will be too far apart on their manifesto pledges come 2015 on the subject of housing but I know who I trust to deliver.
Housing and energy are just two of the many areas that Labour failed for us between 1997 and 2010. It wasn’t just the economy that they trashed.
But don’t worry, Ed is going to create a million green jobs. A ha ha ha ha ha ha! Once he has destoyed millions of non-green jobs.
(Apologies that I do not have access to Photoshop at work, and my lunchtime has run out so please blend them together in your mind).