Labour must get tough on Tory housing policy in London

September 9, 2013 1:34 pm

Interested in housing issues and Labour’s housing strategy? Come join LabourList for a breakfast event at the Conference Fringe on Monday 23rd September, at 8.30am in the Mercure Coast View Room 1. For an invitation contact events@labourlist.org  

Thousands of young people flock to London every year for the dream of opportunity and to start a new, better life for themselves and their families. But for many of those young people, the London dream swiftly becomes a nightmare. The stagnant jobs market; a rigged housing market; and a cost of living crisis make paying essential outgoings like energy bills and transport fares simply unbearable.

London is often described as a ‘Labour city’. With 44 MPs from a possible 74, and 12 London Assembly members from a 25, it you can see why. But  Boris Johnson’s re-election in 2012, and seemingly endless popularity, should have served as a wake-up call to those in Labour HQ. How do we beat Boris or his Tory successor in 2016? How do we turn those forty something MPs into fifty or sixty and take a majority in the LA?

Yes, the candidates are important, and the team that London Labour is putting together for 2015 looks noticeably different and more representative. Candidates like Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) and Sarah Sackman (Finchley & Golders Green) show that Labour continues to be the only party serious about redressing the gender imbalance in parliament and focusing on equality in our selections process.

But we can’t just hope that the diversity of our candidates will see us home in London in the next three years of elections. The message in the capital needs to be clearer than ever. Labour needs to offer a real and radical alternative to Londoners, then start thinking about achieving those goals from 2015 onwards. We need to be clear that when we talk about the cost of living, the cost of the Coalition and the cost of Cameron, we are actually talking about the economy. An economy that has flatlined for three years, and Coalition policies that have contributed to Wonga reporting record figures this year and zero-hour contracts becoming the workplace norm. The most important thing we can do for Londoners struggling on lower and middle incomes is to fix the most important thing in their lives: the roof over their head.

On housing, we can start by forcing the Government to scrap the failing ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Lauded in the Budget as a helping hand for first-time buyers, in reality it threatens to further ramp up house prices and cut out those on lower and middle incomes. The only solution is a commitment to building more houses. We made a start in the summer by speaking out against ‘landbanking’ but we need to do more to encourage local authorities to get on with building. Until we start that housing construction project, more and more people will be left stranded in the never-ending cycle of paying inflated rents to private landlords for poor quality housing stock.

Boris Johnson launched his ‘Housing Covenant’ a few months ago, calling it “a simple concept based on fairness” and a serious piece of work designed to take on rogue landlords. But if you look at research compiled by charities like Shelter and pressure groups like Priced Out, it’s fairly obvious that he’s failed on both counts.

Tighter regulation is needed to stop Londoners getting ripped off by unchecked letting agents and it’s important that Jack Dromney has lead the way on this. In a recent survey from Labour, 94% of letting agents impose additional charges on tenants on top of the tenancy deposit and rent in advance. In London new tenants have to find more than £1,700 on average upfront, just to get a foot in the door of their new flat. We can’t just let the market go on exploiting people like this. It isn’t the Labour way.

London, the world’s favourite city after New York, has always counted on its residents’ resilience as its greatest attribute. That resilience has been built up over time from exposure to variety, change and new thinking. London survived the plague, the fire and the Luftwaffe; it’ll survive Boris Johnson and David Cameron. But now more than ever, Labour needs to show that it is on the side of everyday Londoners. The challenge is not to convince people that David Cameron is out of touch with them and that the cost of living crisis is real. The challenge is to convince them that Labour can do something about it.

Latest

  • News “Our choice is the country’s choice” – Lisa Nandy’s LabourList Christmas Lecture

    “Our choice is the country’s choice” – Lisa Nandy’s LabourList Christmas Lecture

    On Monday evening Lisa Nandy MP gave the LabourList Christmas Lecture to launch her pamphlet “Our Labour Our Communities” – you can download the pamphlet here. Here’s the text of that lecture: We’ve got five months to go until the most important General Election in a generation. And over the last year, as I’ve spent time with Labour candidates meeting and listening to people in communities as diverse as Brighton, Norwich and Calder Valley it seems to me the overwhelming […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling New Ashcroft polls shows the point where the Labour gains stop coming

    New Ashcroft polls shows the point where the Labour gains stop coming

    The latest batch of marginals polling carried out by Lord Ashcroft has been published today, and it does not bring many glad tidings for Labour. The polling covers four Labour seats: Dudley North, Great Grimsby, Plymouth Moor View and Rother Valley; eight Conservative seats: Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Ealing Central & Acton, Elmet & Rothwell, Harrow East, Pendle, South Swindon, Stevenage, and Warwick & Leamington; and one Green Party seat: Brighton Pavilion. All of the Conservative held seats, bar Warwick & […]

    Read more →
  • News Ipsos-Mori poll puts Tories 3 points ahead – and Labour’s voteshare remains at 2010 level

    Ipsos-Mori poll puts Tories 3 points ahead – and Labour’s voteshare remains at 2010 level

    Yesterday there was some relatively good polling new for Labour, with a 5 point lead over the Tories with ICM. Today the polling news is bad, with the Tories 3 points ahead of Labour with Ipsos-Mori, and Labour’s vote looking squeezed by both the Green and the SNP: In reality these recent polls suggest that the two parties are very close together – effectively tied in the low thirties. However what’s particularly troubling for Labour from this Ipsos-Mori poll is […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Labour could benefit from Green tactical voting, poll suggests

    Labour could benefit from Green tactical voting, poll suggests

    A YouGov poll for The Times Red Box has found that Labour could do well from tactical Green voting next May. The poll asked 4,335 respondents which party they would most like to win in their constituency, and also which party they think they will end up voting for. A third of those people said they would like the Greens to win in their area said that they’d most likely vote Labour next year. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these […]

    Read more →
  • News Lansley named worst health secretary, Bevan named best

    Lansley named worst health secretary, Bevan named best

    The work Andrew Lansley did for the NHS has finally received proper recognition. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) have named him the worst Health Secretary. A questionnaire of 50 of the country’s leading doctors and healthy experts led to Lansley being bestowed this title, while this same group of medical practitioners chose Aneurin Bevan as the best. Lansley, who was the Health Secretary between 2010 and 2012, was named by 15 of those asked as the worst person to occupy the post. […]

    Read more →