The party that is meant to embrace the value of a property owning democracy, are making a real housing Horlicks.
Mortgage holders are in despair over rising interest rates and people wanting to rent are facing a flight of landlords fed up with the Levelling Up Secretary’s attempts to improve the lot of tenants.
The government are being pressed to launch a short term cash bailout for people with high mortgage costs along the lines of the Covid furlough scheme or the energy subsidy programme. The Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, had said such a move was being kept “under review”, but the Chancellor seemed to rule that out later in the week. He is right to do so, for two reasons.
Firstly, this country is under probation with the money markets following last autumn’s reckless behaviour from Liz Truss. Increasing our, already huge, debt burden, would not go down well with investors. Secondly it is a fact that people with mortgage problems are mostly far better off than youngsters and the low paid just looking for a roof over their heads. That is where government money should be going, by allowing local councils to build hundreds of thousands of local authority or housing association property with lifetime security BUT reverting to the public housing stock afterwards.
There is no sign that the government are going to do anything substantial. They resurrect the old Thatcherite fear that council house tenants become captives of the Labour Party. Also, by abolishing house building targets, Michael Gove was giving in to NIMBEYS who mostly live in the Home Counties and vote Conservative.
Ministers may be wrong in this conclusion. Labour and Tory parents are appalled at the difficulties their kids are having with the housing shortage, high rents, and mortgage costs. Support for trying to get back to building 300,000 houses a year, last achieved in 1977, might gain a party with imagination, much support.
It is an unsettling time for MPs. Not only is there a string of by elections coming up but all the parties are choosing their candidates for next year’s General Election, based on new boundaries.
One of the first selections to be resolved saw defeat for Corbynite Mick Whitley in his own seat of Birkenhead. Alison McGovern saw her Wirral South seat abolished, and a bit of it went into the new Birkenhead, entitling her to challenge Whitley. McGovern is a leading member of Progressive Britain, a group of moderate to right of centre Labour members supporting Keir Starmer who cried few tears at Whitley’s defeat.
However, we may not have heard the last of Mr Whitley as Margaret Greenwood is standing down in Wirral West. He may take on one of the reported favourites for the seat, former Wirral Cabinet member, Matthew Patrick.
The MPs for the rock solid Labour seats of St Helens North and Knowsley North are standing down, offering jobs for life to aspirants. Meanwhile the stunning rise of Labour in Sefton could see them win the currently Tory held seat of Southport fall into their hands. So, the Labour selection here will take on extra significance. Three Sefton councillors are reported to be interested.
Finally, no news on the fate of the brave Andy Carter, one of the Tory members of the committee that sentenced Johnson to 90 days in absentia. He is standing down from his Warrington South seat which is much altered in the boundary changes. Let’s hope he will be picked up by Eddisbury or another North West seat that wants an MP prepared to stand up for integrity.