Boris under fire over housing

Minister's attack marks breakdown of relations with government

The fragile relationship between the Labour government and the Conservative Mayor of London reached a new low today when a minister wrote to Boris Johnson blasting his plans for housing.

In the letter, seen by, John Healey expresses "serious concerns" about the "scale of ambition set out in the plan and the commitment to using the Greater London Authority's powers to the full to ensure London has the homes that Londoners need". He says that Johnson's plan "does not show how London will meet the numbers of affordable homes the city needs".

The minister also implies Johnson has broken a promise, claiming that the mayor has "stretched" his election pledge on housing: "Your election promise to build 50,000 affordable homes over three years has now been stretched over four years."
The letter reflects Labour strategists' determination to treat Johnson's London administration as a "dry run" for a national government led by David Cameron. The letter argues that Johnson will make it harder for many to part-buy their own home, saying his plan "proposes spreading the public money available to them more thinly, by making the same support available to those earning above £60,000 a year up to £74,000. Giving priority to higher-earning families will mean that fewer on ordinary incomes will be able to gain access to homeownership."

The figures imply that a household earning more income than an MP would qualify for help under Johnson's plan.




James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.