This is my first reading of the content relating to housing in the Labour Party Manifesto 2019, which was published today following Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the launch of the manifesto in Birmingham.
Well, it’s not a good start. Although, on the contents page for the manifesto, the National Health Service, Education, Police and Security Services, Justice, Communities and Local Government, Fire and Rescue, and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are all listed under the title of ‘Rebuild our Public Services’, Housing is listed under the following section titled ‘Tackle Poverty and Inequality’, together with Work, Women and Equalities, Migration, Social Security and Constitutional Issues. This echoes the diminished importance accorded the housing crisis by the Labour leader at this year’s Labour Party conference, where it merited a single mention in a 45-minute speech.
Even worse, in his three-page introduction to this year’s manifesto, in which two paragraphs are devoted to the so-called Green Industrial Revolution with which the manifesto proper opens, another paragraph to full-fibre broadband, and another each to crime, security from terrorism and Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn’s single reference to housing is that he is ‘not prepared to continue to see more families without a proper home . . . or sleeping rough on the streets’. That sounds a little like a promise to close his eyes, which is what he has been doing to the actions of Labour councils and municipalities creating that homelessness and rough sleeping for the four years of his leadership. But let’s move on to the promises and hopefully policies that will supposedly stop this homelessness, rather than simply ignore it; and hope that what Jeremy Corbyn means by a ‘proper home’ is given a definition that has meaning that stands up to scrutiny.
The chapter on housing finally appears on page 77 of this 105 page document. These are the key points of what it says and my response.
‘Everyone has the right to a decent, secure home.’
Does this mean a Labour Government will introduce funding for the refurbishment of council homes up to the Decent Homes Standard that the London Labour Mayor, for example, has withheld?
‘We will introduce a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to fit sprinklers and other fire safety measures in all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks.’
Excellent, but does that mean only new-build council and social housing, or retrofitting to existing stock? And what does ‘high-rise’ mean in number of stories? Does it, for example, mean the 10-storey apartments in the Riverside development granted planning permission by Barking and Dagenham Labour council that went up in flames last June?
‘Enforce the replacement of dangerous Grenfell-style cladding on all high-rise homes and buildings.’
This doesn’t clarify who will bear the cost of this replacement: councils, housing associations, developers, contractors, leaseholders, tenants? And the tests undertaken after the Grenfell Tower fire have shown that cladding systems that have failed extend beyond the ACM-cladding system applied to the tower; such as, for example, the student accommodation block in Bolton that also went up in flames last week, whose cladding was applied in the summer after the Grenfell Tower fire.
‘Everyone knows of someone affected by the housing crisis: younger people unable to buy a first home, renters trapped in damp flats, families stuck on council waiting lists, leasehold home-owners hit by unfair fees, people who are homeless living and dying on our streets.’
True, but in London one of the largest demographics affected by the housing crisis is the residents living in the hundreds of council estates threatened by demolition schemes implemented by Labour councils.
‘The gap between the housing haves and have-nots is at the heart of the injustice in our country today.’
No, it isn’t. That’s the gap between property owners and renters. The gap at the heart of housing injustice is between those with housing security and affordability and those without one or either.
‘Labour will set up a new English Sovereign Land Trust, with powers to buy land more cheaply for low-cost housing.’
What does ‘more cheaply’ and ‘low cost’ mean in policy terms? When the English Sovereign Land Trust was mooted in Labour’s Green Paper, Housing for the Many, in April 2018, it merely proposed that a Labour Government would ensure that new housing developments on public land – which includes, of course, estate regeneration schemes – include ‘an appropriate amount of affordable housing’.
‘We will make brownfield sites the priority for development and protect the green belt.’
Does that still include council estates, in line with existing Conservative Government and Labour Party policy?
‘Labour will tackle the climate crisis and cut energy bills by introducing a tough, new zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes, and upgrading millions of existing homes to make them more energy efficient.’
Lobbying for reduced carbon housing by Green energy companies was one of the causes of the retrofitting of a flammable insulation and cladding system to Grenfell Tower. The greatest cause of carbon emissions in housing is their demolition and redevelopment rather than their maintenance and refurbishment. Promising zero-carbo homes — tough or otherwise — is window dressing for high-end developments whose construction does far more damage to our environment than their green architecture can compensate for.
Council and Social Homes
‘The only way to deliver on everyone’s right to a good home is to build publicly funded social housing.’
Finally, a statement of principle we’ve been arguing for five years. Now how does this manifesto turn that principles into practice?
‘Labour will deliver a new social housebuilding programme of more than a million homes over a decade, with council housing at its heart. By the end of the Parliament we will be building at an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent in the biggest council housebuilding programme in more than a generation.’
Hallelujah! Though ASH will continue to hold the Labour Party to that definition of ‘social rent’ rather than ‘council housing’, which has come to means anything built by councils, including the affordable housing built through their wholly-owned housing development and management companies.
‘We will establish a new duty on councils to plan and build these homes in their area, and fund them to do so, with backing from national government.’
But bizarrely, the manifesto doesn’t say how much funding a Labour Government will allocate for this programme. The figure being widely quoted in the media is £75 billion over the course of five years; but there is no mention of this in the manifesto: not in the chapter in Housing, not in the chapter on Funding, and not in the chapter on Community and Local Government.*
But let’s look at this quoted figure. 150,000 council and housing associations homes per year for five years is 750,000 residential dwellings: 500,000 for social rent and 250,000 affordable housing shared ownership and rent-to-buy properties. The manifesto only promises to reach this figure by the last year of Parliament, but it looks like this number has been matched to the quoted funding; and this comes to exactly £100,000 per dwelling. This is the figure already available to London councils and housing associations to build homes for social rent under the London Labour Mayor’s Homes for Londoners programme. And last year the grand total of 433 homes for social rent were completed in the capital. In contrast, 2,839 units were intermediate housing, meaning shared ownership or equity or rent-to-buy, and 1,431 were for affordable rent, with the remaining 27,148 for market sale or rent. Part of the reason for this is that a new-build property in the capital costs in excess of £300,000 under the current marketisation of housing provision, in which developers take between 20-25 per cent in profit and the builders not much less. So unless Jeremy Corbyn is going to impose a stronger ‘duty’ on Labour councils to build council homes for social rent than they already have, and starts to overhaul not only the funding but also the structure and culture of Labour-run local authorities committed to the Neo-liberalisation of public services, this isn’t going to work.
Another possible solution is that a Labour Government could vary the funding for social and affordable housing, and allocate the £38,000 per affordable housing unit that the GLA currently does. That comes to £9.5 billion for the 250,000 housing association dwellings. This leaves £65.5 billion for the 500,000 council homes for social rent, which is £130,000 per unit. That’s slightly more viable, although that’s per unit, and doesn’t take into account the additional costs of external works and other fees incurred by a residential development. But the biggest caveat is that residential developments to which London Labour councils have granted property developers planning permission, or have undertaken themselves through wholly-owned housing development and management companies, have been cross-subsidised by at least 50 per cent, and typically far more, properties for market sale. So unless Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to build 750,000 dwellings in five years is matched by property developers building around a million properties for market sale, this too will not work.
‘We will scrap the Conservatives’ bogus definition of ‘affordable’, set as high as 80% of market rents, and replace it with a definition linked to local incomes.’
If a Labour Government is promising to build 100,000 homes for social rent per year, and has promised to build at least 150,000 social and council homes per year, that means 50,000 units of ‘affordable housing’ built by councils and housing associations. Even if it scraps ‘affordable rent’, two-thirds of existing affordable housing in London is for London Living Rent, which is a rent-to-buy product already linked to local incomes, and shared ownership properties, which almost no-one in London can afford. This statement also doesn’t clarify what happens to Sadiq Khan’s London Affordable Rent, which has almost entirely replaced social rent in the capital, but which appears exempt from this definition of affordable rent up to 80 per cent of market rate. In the London Borough of Lewisham, for example, London Affordable Rent is 60 per cent higher than social rent, and this is an opportunity missed for a Labour Government to have scrapped this lebel of affordable rent too.
‘These council and housing association homes will be more affordable than market housing and built to higher standards.’
Yes, that’s what I thought this meant. So scraping affordable rent means a third of a Labour Government’s promised housing provision will be for some form of home ownership. And that was by the end of a Parliament. What about the next five years? What will a Labour Government be building now? And again, will this include London Affordable Rent? If it does, does this mean Labour councils will replace London Affordable Rent with rent-to-buy and shared ownership properties, and even, as this ‘more’ indicates, market housing?
‘We will end the conversion of office blocks to homes that sidestep planning permission through ‘permitted development’.
Glad to hear it. Too many Labour councils have employed this legislation to raise the numbers of residential dwellings being built in their borough without consideration of housing need and the negative effects of gentrification.
‘We will stop the haemorrhage of low-cost homes by ending the right to buy, along with the forced conversion of social rented homes to so-called ‘affordable rent’.
Good, but the manifesto hasn’t said anything about the haemorrhaging of council homes for social rent (which are the only kind subject to Right to Buy) to estate demolition and privatisation schemes by Labour councils, which are the primary means of converting social rented homes to so-called affordable rent.
‘We will review the case for reducing the amount of housing debt councils currently hold.’
I’m not sure what this means. If it means lifting the borrowing cap so councils can build council housing, Theresa May already did this. If it means relieving councils of that debt, why didn’t the manifesto state this clearly in the earlier chapters on Funding or Communities and Local Government? Now isn’t the time for promising reviews; now is the time for announcing policy based on those reviews.
‘And we will give councils the powers and funding to buy back homes from private landlords.’
Councils already have this power. They’re called Empty Dwelling Management Orders; but very few councils use it except when Compulsorily Purchasing the homes of leaseholders that live on or around an estate a Labour council wants to demolish. In the five years up to January 2018, only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded to FOI requests made use of EDM orders that would allow them to take over properties that have been empty for at least 6 months. Political will, not legislation, is lacking.
‘We will give tenants a stronger say in the management of their homes and stop social cleansing by making sure regeneration only goes ahead when it has the consent of residents, and that all residents are offered a new property on the same site and terms.’
Council tenants don’t want a ‘stronger say’; they want clear policy of the kind ASH has written in our Housing Manifesto 2019, and which the Labour Party hasn’t included here where it should be declared. As for balloting, unless its framework and conditions are radically changed from its current form under the Labour-run Greater London Authority, it has already been shown to be nothing more than a means of manufacturing resident consent for the demolition of their homes. Talk about ballots to the residents of the Achilles Street estate, and the Cambridge Road estate, and the South Kilburn estate, all of which, following campaigns of disinformation by the councils, have voted — or are expected to vote — for the demolition of their own homes.
Unless policy is written, as it has been in the ASH manifesto, that requires residents to be offered an independently produced option for the refurbishment of their homes, this adds nothing to current Labour policy on estate regeneration. The majority of residents don’t own ‘property’ on an estate targeted by Labour councils for demolition; they have a secure tenancy, and under current Labour policy they will not only lose that security, but both tenants and leaseholders will be unable to afford either the new rental and service charges or house prices on the redevelopments. And ‘terms’ is as loose a term (where there should be policy clarity) as the ‘right to return’ that is conditional on residents’ ability to afford these prohibitive increases in their housing costs. As an example of how a Labour government intends to build 100,000 homes for social rent per year, this strongly suggests that Labour’s estate demolition programme will continue and even be expanded under a Labour Government.
‘We will fund a new Decent Homes programme to bring all council and housing association homes up to a good standard.’
For how much? And will this be available to residents fighting the demolition of their homes? Why hasn’t the manifesto clarified that such funded refurbishment must be the default option for councils in regeneration schemes, rather than the current prejudice in favour of demolition and redevelopment, as ASH has done in our Housing Manifesto 2019?
‘Under the Tories, home ownership is getting further out of reach for more and more people. Numbers of new affordable homes to buy have fallen, and fewer younger people can afford their own home. We will build more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers in every area, including Labour’s new discount homes with prices linked to local incomes.’
Despite this standard abnegation by Labour of all responsibility for homeless to ‘the Tories’, what is being proposed here is no different from Conservative housing policy, and reveals clearly that a Labour Government intends to build 50,000 properties per year for shared ownership and rent-to-buy properties. Why is private property being funded by a Labour Government?
‘We will reform Help to Buy to focus it on first-time buyers on ordinary incomes.’
Again, this is Conservative policy, and I have the same question. Help to Buy artificially raises house prices that are underwritten by the UK Government, and as such is one of the prime sources of the speculation and investment in the UK property market that is the cause of the housing crisis. Help to Buy doesn’t needs reforming, it needs abolishing immediately, and the funds invested in homes for social rent.
‘We will introduce a levy on overseas companies buying housing, while giving local people ‘first dibs’ on new homes built in their area.’
Oh dear. This confirms that a Labour government is committing British taxpayers’ money to building residential properties for foreign and offshore investors as a means of levying funds. Such properties being far beyond the financial means of all but the wealthiest members of the British electorate, giving them ‘first dibs’ is not only a stupid expression to use in a manifesto on housing but a completely empty promise designed to fool those who don’t understand housing policy.
‘We will bring empty homes back into use by giving councils new powers to tax properties empty for over a year.’
Does that include the thousands of ‘properties’ left empty for years on end by Labour councils that have emptied them preparatory to their demolition and redevelopment as market sale, shared ownership and rent-to buy properties?
‘We will end the sale of new leasehold properties, abolish unfair fees and conditions, and give leaseholders the right to buy their freehold at a price they can afford.’
The unfair fees and conditions are contained within the shared ownership and shared equity schemes to which this manifesto has committed a Labour Government, so it’s unclear what this means in policy terms.
‘We will take urgent action to protect private renters through rent controls.’
This sounds like it’s looking forward to the policy promises on which the London Labour Mayor has indicated he will seek re-election to office; and I’ve already commented on the limitations of rent caps. The only way to reduce private rents is to offer an alternative to that housing market through council housing.
‘Labour will stop runaway rents by capping them with inflation.’
Rents in London, at least, are already far above what most households can pay. Private rents don’t require capping or fixing to inflation; they need reducing immediately and by a significant amount if they are to be brought in line with Labour’s promise to reduce housing costs to a third of renters’ income.
‘We will give renters the security they need to make their rented housing a home, with new open-ended tenancies to stop unfair, ‘no fault’ evictions.’
Good, though how this will sit with real estate firms like Savills that are advising Labour councils and the London Labour Mayor on their housing policies, and sit on and sponsor every Labour-backed think-tank on housing policy, is not clear.
‘We will make sure every property is up to scratch with new minimum standards, enforced through nationwide licensing and tougher sanctions for landlords who flout the rules.’
Will these sanctions on landlords apply to the Labour councils that, in line with standard Labour Party practice, undertake the managed decline of council estates in order to justify their depiction of residents’ homes as beyond refurbishment, in preparation for their demolition and redevelopment as market sale and shared ownership properties?
‘We will fund new renters’ unions in every part of the country – to allow renters to organise and defend their rights.’
Will these be Labour-affiliated unions such as Unite that have repeatedly shown themselves to be on the side of Labour councils against residents?
‘We will give councils new powers to regulate short-term lets through companies such as Airbnb.’
Will this regulation be extended to the Labour councils that use property guardians and short-term assured tenancies on council homes evicted of secure residents prior to their demolition, a process that can take decades and which keeps both guardians and tenants without security of tenure and subject to revenge evictions if they join campaigns to save the estate against those councils? And if so, who will regulate these councils?
‘No one should sleep without a roof over their head in one of the richest countries in the world. But under the Tories, the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled.’
In actuality, homelessness can only ever be a cross-party product, with Labour municipalities and local authorities implementing Conservative Government policy and legislation; as, for example, when the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn instructed its councils to implement the austerity cuts ordered by the Government of David Cameron.
‘Labour will tackle the root causes of rising homelessness with more affordable homes and stronger rights for renters.’
The root cause of rising homeless is not a lack of affordable housing, which is one of the policies that has implemented those causes, but speculation on the UK housing market, the marketisation of housing provision, government subsidies such as Help to Buy for market-sale properties which this Labour manifesto has committed itself to continuing, and the mass loss of homes for social rent not only to the Right to Buy but to the stock transfer of council estates to housing associations and, above all, their demolition, redevelopment and privatisation through Labour’s estate ‘regeneration’ programme.
‘We will expand and upgrade hostels, turning them into places where people can turn their lives around.’
Hostels are never anything more than a temporary solution that also forces the homeless to raise around £12 per night from begging that also allows Labour councils to fine them £100 and force them out of their jurisdictions on pain of a criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Funding for hostels is currently being used to pay CEOs business competitive salaries, not ‘turning around’ the lives of the 9,000 rough sleepers, 300,000 homeless and 1.6 million households that are looking for a council home.
‘We will tackle the wider causes of homelessness, raising the Local Housing Allowance in line with the 30th percentile of local rents.’
Raising the LHA to better meet local private rent levels is, again, a short-term and short-sighted solution. The UK state this year spent £23.4 billion on Housing Benefit, the vast majority of which went into the pockets of private landlords. Like Help to Buy, increasing the government subsidy for market housing will only push rents and house prices up, and is not a solution that addresses the wider causes of homelessness.
‘We will bring in a new national levy on second homes used as holiday homes to help deal with the homelessness crisis, so that those who have done well from the housing market pay a bit more to help those with no home.’
This is another example of the so-called ‘trickle-down’ theory on which so much Conservative economic policy is supposedly based, and has no place in housing policy seeking to address the economic causes of homelessness, housing poverty and housing precarity.
‘And we’ll repeal the Vagrancy Act and amend antisocial behaviour legislation to stop the law being used against people because they are homeless.’
The Vagrancy law is from 1824. There is far more recent and regularly enacted legislation used to criminalise homelessness, such as the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 that introduced Public Space Protection Orders. Carrying a fixed penalty of £100 or a court summons with a fine up to £1,000 and a criminal conviction, banned acts include begging and rough sleeping. London Labour councils in Camden, Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Ealing, Newham, Waltham Forest, Hounslow, Croydon, Barking & Dagenham, Lewisham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Merton and Hackney have all employed Public Space Protection Orders to criminalise homelessness in their boroughs. Why has this manifesto not promised to repeal PSPOs?
The headlines grasped at by Labourites and Corbynites alike will be the promise to build ‘100,000 homes for social rent per year.’ But outside this promise, there is little or nothing in this manifesto to suggest how this will be implemented, on what land, and how it will be funded, either in the chapter on Housing or those on Communities and Local Government or Funding. While there is a lot here about a Labour Government’s commitment to funding and building properties for market sale for foreign investors, starter homes for first-time buyers, shared ownership products and rent-to-buy schemes linked to incomes, there is nothing about its policies on social-rent housing or, significantly, the estate regeneration programme that is clearing our inner cities for investment by global capital.
Although initially encouraged by this promise, the further I’ve read through this manifesto the more this sounds to me like an empty one. Labour has been promising similar housing figures as Parliamentary Opposition since Corbyn was elected Leader; but in power at municipal and council level the Party has been continuing its policy of demolishing and privatising council estates and replacing them with affordable and market-sale properties, and I haven’t read anything in this manifesto to convince me a Labour Government will do anything different. There may be other promises in this manifesto on other areas of government policy** for which the electorate may vote Labour, but my speciality is in housing policy, and I’ve confined my comments to what policy there is in this characteristically vague and dissembling document. But housing has shown itself to be a prism through which the social, environmental, economic and political values of our Parliamentary parties pass and are separated into clear colours for our consideration: red, blue, yellow, green. The Labour Party Manifesto 2019 is right that — as it says on its red title page — ‘it’s time for real change’; but unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, the blue housing policy inside isn’t it.
Architects for Social Housing
It looks like at least a source of the quoted figure £75 billion for social-rent and affordable housing is the website of the Labour Party, where it says:
‘The new plans will be paid for with funding from Labour’s Social Transformation Fund. Half of Labour’s Social Transformation Fund — around £75bn over five years — will be allocated to housing.’
As I’ve written above, that comes to the same funding levels as Sadiq Khan has made available for homes for social rent in London, where a total of 433 units were built last year. So it’s unclear how this will motivate Labour councils to start building the 100,000 per year the manifesto is promising. More indicative of a Labour Government’s plans, however, is this statement:
‘The homes will be built to cutting edge design and green standards, with Labour citing the new, award winning Goldsmith Street council development in Labour-led Norwich as an example of what Labour’s modern council housing could look like.’
Now, this sounds more like the Labour Party we know and oppose. As ASH established in the run up to our protest against the nomination of this and other redevelopment schemes for the Neave Brown inaugural award at this year’s Stirling Prize, the Goldsmith Street development wasn’t built by Norwich council but by the Norwich Regeneration Company, the Labour council’s wholly-owned housing development, lettings and management company. This is a commercial vehicle operating as a housing association, and the 105 homes for social rent it built on Goldsmith Street have been cross-subsidised by the company’s next project, Rayne Park, in which only 57 of the 172 properties will be even so-called ‘affordable’ housing, with the remaining 115 properties for market sale. As I said above, if Goldsmith Street is the model on which a Labour Government is relying for its promises to build 150,000 social rent and affordable properties over the next Parliament, it relies on a similar commitment from property developers to build the market-sale properties necessary to cross-subsidise the cost of their construction.
It will also rely on the land on which to build being cleared. Goldsmith Street was a redevelopment, and was built on land previously occupied by 16 bungalows, 10 council flats, 2 wardens houses, and an unspecified number of homes from the Alderman Clarke House care home, all of which the Labour council demolished to clear the land for the Goldsmith Street development, and none of whose residents, as far as we can establish, have returned to the new ‘passive carbon’ homes.
Finally, by handing over responsibility for housing to the Norwich Regeneration Company, the Labour council has effectively privatised housing provision in the borough. One of the consequences of this is the company’s introduction of new conditions for would-be tenants, the first of which is that they are not claiming benefits. Under the heading ‘What makes a great tenant?’, Norwich City council addressed this in the Summer 2018 issue of their Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Community Magazine, where it offers potential tenants employment, business and ‘life-style’ skills. Another consequence is that, as a housing association, under current legislation residents can only be offered assured tenancies. The Labour manifesto says nothing about changing that legislation. A third consequence is that, as a commercial vehicle, the Norwich Regeneration Company is required to making a profit for its investors, and this takes profit over any commitment to building homes in which residents in housing need can afford to live.
Indeed, since John Healey, the Shadow Labour Minister for Housing, published his Green Paper, Housing for the Many, in April 2018, it has been official Labour policy to hand over responsibility for housing constituents to housing associations; so this should come as no surprise to anyone who keeps track of Labour’s commitment to the progressive privatisation of our public services. Here’s a reminder of what this document — which contains the policy details lacking in the Labour Party Manifesto 2019 —promised:
‘Amongst today’s housing associations are some of the best examples of ambitious, developing social landlords with social purpose at their core. We will continue to back housing associations to build more genuinely affordable homes for those who need them, just as we did in Government. In-spite of difficult operating conditions, housing associations have increased investment in a range of new homes. The sector calculates it built 38,000 homes last year, of which 12% were social rented, reflecting the constraints of the current Government’s grant funding programme. Savills suggests that housing associations have the financial capacity to more than double the number of new homes they bring forward, delivering up to a total of 84,000 a year by 2029.’
These, remember, are the housing associations that made £6.33 billion pounds in profit on a turnover of £20.5 billion in 2018 by building properties for market sale and converting social rents to affordable rents. And, of course, Labour’s model of so-called ‘council housing’ provision is based on existing ‘council-owned’ private development, letting and management companies such as the Norwich Regeneration Company, but also Croydon’s Brick by Brick, Lambeth’s Homes for Lambeth and Newham’s Red Door Ventures, that have been pioneered by Labour councils in order to demolish and redevelop their estates and build the highest value properties in their place:
‘Many councils, in both urban and rural areas, have used their own land and borrowing powers to set up local housing companies. These companies, which are not subject to the constraints imposed on councils’ housing revenue accounts, are independent and self-financing, and are either wholly or part-owned by the council. By building on council land and offering a mix of housing for private rent and sale, they’re able to cross-subsidise affordable homes in a similar way to housing associations. Labour councils across the country are planning to build new homes through local housing companies: including Barking & Dagenham, Newham, Lambeth, Southwark and Croydon. The latest research suggests that the number of local housing companies could reach 200 by 2020, collectively providing an estimated 10,000 homes a year, around 30-40% for low income households.’
And, finally, there’s Labour Party policy on estate regeneration, the programme which for two years neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Labour activists would even mention, until Sadiq Khan showed him how to fool all the people all of the time:
‘When done well, regeneration can mean more affordable housing, better neighbourhoods and improved community facilities. However, it is important that regeneration is seen to benefit local people and that residents are fully engaged in big changes to their homes and neighbourhoods, particularly when this involves demolition of occupied housing. Many councils already ensure that this happens, but there is scope for stronger guidance from Government. Labour in Government ensured that where homes were transferred from councils to housing associations via so-called ‘large scale voluntary transfers’ this was only done with tenant support. It is appropriate to apply this principle in cases of estate regeneration too.’
Does any of this sound any different from the lies we hear from Labour councils when they put housing estates up for ‘regeneration’ that inevitably turns into demolition? In pushing through which schemes, Healey offers the same trite guides as Sadiq Khan:
‘Where a proposed estate regeneration scheme involves demolition of existing homes, a Labour Government will ensure there is support for the proposal through a ballot of residents. We will also make it a condition of estate regeneration schemes that, at a minimum, there is no loss of social housing and that all existing residents are offered a home on the new site on the same terms.’
In other words — and has happened consistently over the course of Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership — the Labour Party has taken its housing policy from Labour councils, not the other way around. And as the website of the Labour Party clarifies, a Labour Government would mean business as usual for the demolition, social cleansing and privatisation of our council housing and estates.
** Questions of Policy
Below are the chapter-headings in the Labour Party Manifesto 2019. I’ve analysed the chapter on Housing and offered my conclusions above. Instead of repeatedly claiming that Labour are ‘Not as bad as the Conservatives’ and imperiously demanding ‘Who are you voting for then?’, perhaps readers could undertake a similar analysis of areas in which they have some expertise, and post the results in the comment section.
For example, is the Third Industrial Revolution a Labour Government is promising to implement reliant upon the kind of imperialist overthrow of leftist governments we’re seeing in mineral-rich countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil?
Or, will a Green New Deal reduce the totality of carbon emissions on our world or further entrench capitalism in the UK economy just when we should be overthrowing it as the primary cause of those emissions?
Or, how will a Labour Government raise the funds to buy back the National Health Service from the threat of privatisation by US corporations when the process of its privatisation has been undertaken by successive Conservative and Labour governments over the past 40 years?
Or, will a Labour Government’s commitment to increase funding to UK Police and Security services reduce knife crime, which is how it’s being justified, or will it increase the erasure of what’s left of our civil liberties and human rights?
Or, is a Labour Government’s promises to review labour and employment legislation compatible with its ongoing commitment to the marketisation of social services?
Or, how will a Labour Government regulate a capitalist labour market so that opening UK borders to increased immigration isn’t used by employers to undermine the employment rights and wage demands of UK workers?
Or, will a Labour Government’s promises to scrap Universal Credit and restore Housing Benefit do anything more than increase the £23 billion a year we are already handing over to private rental landlords?
Or, in the event of a second referendum returning a vote to Remain, is it possible to implement a Labour Government’s re-nationalisation programme while remaining under the European Union’s Neo-liberal legislation?
Or, will a Labour Government’s commitment to the Neo-liberal framework of human rights in international relations extend to banning all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships, denouncing the policies of the State of Israel as racist and genoicidal, and immediately freeing Julian Assange from his extrajudicial incarceration and torture by the British prison system?
Unlike the Labourites who attack ASH for reading their party’s policies, I’m open to being educated about these matters on which I have an opinion but am not an expert on policy, and considering and debating the points of view put forward. Call me old-fashioned, but I think this would be a better basis to voting (or not voting) in the General Election than whether you think Jeremy Cornbyn would make a good dinner-party guest. This website is open to contributions from those of you who know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you put your brains where your mouths are?
The only place in the Labour Party’s manifesto that might be construed as having application to the actions of a Labour Government towards freeing Julian Assange from his extra-judicial incarceration, torture and extradition to the US is in the section titled Effective Diplomacy, where it says:
‘We will establish a judge-led inquiry into our country’s alleged complicity in rendition and torture, and the operation of secret courts.’
However, even though the manifesto goes on to identify specific historical cases of the UK’s complicity in war crimes, including the Amritsar massacre of 1919, as well as the UK’s contemporary selling of arms to Saudi Arabia in its genocidal war against the Yemeni people, and to Israel in its genocidal war against the Palestinian people, and personally identifies the imprisonment of the British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran and the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the manifesto nowhere makes any mention of the most famous journalist in the world not allegedly but openly incarcerated in an isolation cell 23 hours a day in Belmarsh high security prison in the UK.
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, who was interviewed this week on RT News — which is regularly denounced in this country as a propaganda tool of Vladimir Putin but which is one of the few news outlets where you can hear about what is actually happening in the UK — has written about how the complicity of the UK political establishment, law courts, press and media not only in destroying Assange’s reputation through lies and slander and false accusations of rape, but also in refusing to report on what is being done to him in our name or on the campaigns to release him, are complicit in his torture and the ability to remove him from the rule of law at the behest of the US political-military complex.
The Labour Party has led the way in calling on the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to extradite Assange to Sweden on charges of rape that never existed, and since even the investigation into those charges, after nine years, have now been dropped, the 39 Labour MPs and 12 Labour Peers who called for this extradition have refused to issue a withdrawal of their statement, an apology to Assange, or a call for his immediate release. By refusing even to name Julian Assange, let alone make a commitment to restore him to the rule of UK law, in that section of their manifesto in which they lay out their supposed commitment to human rights, the Labour Party is as complicit in his ongoing torture as the Conservative Government, the British Broadcasting Commission, our so-called national privately-owned press, the UK legal system and every other institution colluding in the slow murder of Julian Assange in front of the world’s closed eyes.
Since Labourites are ready to close their eyes to every human rights violation their party has committed I don’t expect any response to this, but I’m still curious to know how supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, who regard him and his party as paragons of righteousness and have greeted the Labour manifesto as a Holy Book that will lead us all into the Promised Land, can account for this silence and the ongoing complicity of the Labour Party in suppressing the public’s knowledge about the most important legal case of the century, whose consequences for what’s left of the freedom of the press, our human rights and civil liberties will be felt by all of us. If this is the party we’re relying on for the defence of our human rights and an ethical foreign policy, we’re in bigger trouble than we thought.