We are learning that the Conservatives plan that a new government will be helping local authorities to build more houses and be providing land and buildings for conversion at below market value. Housing would then be able to be purchased by tenants after 10 to 15 years and the realised monies reinvested in housing. Allegedly the core money will come out of £1.4bn of the infrastructure spend outlined in the budget. For housing, of course, this is small fry.
But it does look like a modest reversal of so called neoliberalism as:
- It is clear state intervention in the market
- It will provide a little more competition for private landlords
- It is a recognition that the state has some obligation to house its citizens.
It also cleverly dangles the opportunity for eventual home ownership (though whether this is neoliberalism or not is debatable. I would say it was distributism and to be encouraged. I hope to add a future blog on this subject).
What does all this suggest?
I’d say it suggests that Theresa May intends to follow a different, less ‘Etonian’ path than Cameron – partly I suspect, in acknowledgement of what a disaster Brexit will be.
I wonder if we are seeing a realisation that both circuses and bread will be required in order to keep society together in the wake of Brexit. But in order to pursue that different path she needs a strong endorsement for her leadership, making the Conservative Party hers. It is not the negotiating in Brussels she needs her mandate for but in order to stamp her complete control on the Conservative Party. Hence she is running a closed but very Presidential campaign. We’re encouraged to vote not for our Conservative candidate but by voting Conservative, for Theresa May.
There are rumours that she has had disagreements over spending with her Chancellor. Once she has a mandate and an overwhelming majority, disagreement will be a path to the back benches.
If she succeeds it looks to me as though there is a spark of hope that she will be following a rather different path from Cameron and Osborne, although in putting the country behind the Conservative Party she will certainly be following in their wake.