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By Graham Norwood

Editor, LLT & LAT

Graham Awards


Industry Views - There will be no excuses if Labour fails on housing

It’s all over bar the voting, so let’s cut to the chase. Labour will win on July 4, big time.

Even a large majority can be squandered and a government can still fail on most fronts (see Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for details). But if Labour’s next five or 10 years are considered a failure in terms of housing policy, it really will be inexcusable.

And that won’t just be because of what may be a so-called ‘super-majority’. It will also be because Labour has some of the housing sector’s most experienced figures on board.


Shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook is steeped in housing experience and it will be a travesty if Prime Minister Starmer doesn’t elevate him to Cabinet.

His weakness is that, as with many 40-something MPs, his life experience has been in campaigns, causes and politics rather than real life.

However, those campaigns and causes have been almost entirely related to housing - work at the Resolution Foundation, aide to veteran Labour housing expert Karen Buck, taking over the constituency of respected ex-housing minister Nick Raynsford.

It’s as if Pennycook has spent his adult life preparing to be in charge of Britain’s housing.

For good measure former housing ministers from the past - Yvette Cooper and John Healey - are dead certs for senior (albeit non-housing) roles in a Starmer government.  

Alongside them, assuming Labour gets the kind of majority predicted almost unanimously in opinion polls, will be a raft of British social housing experts.

The excellent Inside Housing publication did the heavy lifting to identify these people.

Andrew Lewin (director of communications at housing association giant Clarion) is standing for Labour against Grant Shapps in Welwyn Hatfield; Neena Gill, Labour’s candidate in Bromsgrove, is the ex-chief executive of Newlon Housing Group and a former MEP in the European Parliament.

Tom Wilson, Labour candidate for Richmond and Northallerton - yes, Rishi Sunak’s seat - is a former big cheese at PricedOut, an activist group demanding lower cost housing for first time buyers; Shama Tatler, standing for Labour against Iain Duncan-Smith at Chingford and Woodford Green has been in charge of housing regeneration for Brent council since 2016, working on a slew of high-profile, high-cost and high-volume schemes.

Alex Diner, Labour candidate for Harwich and North Essex, works at the New Economic Foundation think tank and recently worked on a report urging the reform of Right To Buy; and standing for Labour in Suffolk Coastal (against former deputy PM Therese Coffey) is
Jennifer Riddell Carpenter, who previously worked at the Built Environment Communications Group and at high-profile housing association L&Q.

The list goes on.

Antonia Bance, standing in Tipton and Wednesbury, is an ex-Shelter campaigns chief; Mike Read-er, in Northampton South, has had a career in construction consultancy; and the controversial Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, is standing for Labour in Swansea, having been imposed on the seat by the party at national level.

So surely with that pool of experience, Labour must succeed, especially as it has arguably the most worked-up and thought-out set of housing policies of any party.

What will be interesting will be how all this housing talent relates to the Labour-leaning pressure groups who were allowed to make much of the running on rental and social housing issues against the Conservative government in recent years.

One retiring Labour MP - cruelly - calls these the “Polytechnic Housing Campaigners” who are high in volume but low in understanding of the issues. Will these well-funded groups be as aggressive towards Labour in government as they have been towards the Tories?

It will be interesting to see although, frankly, who cares?

That’s because Labour’s election campaign has given an insight into what the party will be like in government, at least to start with - laser focussed, with a striking decisiveness and dismissive of what Starmer calls “noises off”.

Combining a steely determination and a series of pledges to transform housing in many ways, Labour has set itself a high bar. Failure will not be disappointing, but humiliating.

Buckle up for the next five or 10 years.

* You can see the full Inside Housing article on housing-related candidates here *

  • Matthew Payne

    Of course they are going to fail on housing, we have never built 300,000 houses in one year, not even close, let alone 5 consecutive ones. We arent capable for a variety of reasons and the developers themselves will not allow it. They will of course go chasing consents but they will moth ball a great deal of them mid build to maintain prices. Berkeley are famous for downing tools in the middle of a large site and disappearing for a couple of years so they can manage the supply/demand dynamics.


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