Time to heed the advice of Corpoal Jones ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring! Don’t panic!’ Yes Brown has bounced higher than we hoped with Labour hitting 40 per cent in the latest poll against our 33. Yes the news about Tony Lit our candidate in the Ealing Southall by- election takes some of the sheen off the defection of six labour councillors in that constituency. But to quote Churchill (quoting Clough) ‘westward, look, the land is bright.’ The same poll found that seventy per cent of the public think it is better for parents to be married. 57 per cent even thought that ministers should encourage marriage. There is slightly less support for the married couples’ tax breaks, but 49 per cent in favour against 44 per cent against is not bad going for a proposal which has only just been trailed in the media.
And with the left and right of the party united in support of a policy Brown cannot steal we should be encouraged. I do not say these polls should be simply shrugged off. But look at Brown’s flagship new policy: to build 3 million new homes by 2020. This new target is fraught with hazards for the government. Becasue of density requirements, most of these will be flats not houses. If, as seems likely, there is to be a slump in the housing market these flats- which will be built with taxpayers’ money- will become less and less desirable.
House prices anyway have increased on average six times as much as those of flats. And as Macmillan found as Housing Minister in Churchill’s post war government, cocnentration on a target tends to lead to corners being cut in terms of quality. Ultimately Brown wants to return to the traditional labour policiy of council dwellings. So the likely result is that the country will be littered with low quality housing that no one wants to move into.
Then there is the environmental impact. The definition of ‘brownfield
sites’ has been extended to include land formerly used as gardens.
Brown’s target is an open goal for us.
Tomorrow I’m going to discuss the great unmentionable about how
immigration fuels a lot of extra housing demand.
Edward Leigh MP