Election 2010 Lookahead: Friday 30 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With only six days to go until the closest election in recent times, here is what you should be looking out for today:


Gordon Brown today launches his final week message alongside the Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, the deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, and other cabinet ministers in the West Midlands (9.30am). Later on he will be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman (see below).



William Hague is to join the Conservative candidate Rory Stewart in Penrith, where he will speak at an outdoor rally in the Market Square (5pm).


Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable will visit Ashfield School near Nottingham to speak to first time sixth-form voters and visit their new skills training centre alongside the Lib Dem candidate for Ashfield, Jason Zadrozny (10.30am). Lord Wallace, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman in the House of Lords, will set out Lib Dem UK defence policy at the Royal United Services Institute in London (1pm).


Other parties

The UK Independence Party leader, Lord Pearson, will meet and campaign with the Conservative candidate Mark Reckless, as part of the party's policy of supporting Eurosceptic candidates from other parties, at Caxton in Rochester (2pm).


The media

The fallout from yesterday evening's televised election debate on BBC1 with leaders of the three major parties continues apace. For a more varied diet, look to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, which includes interviews with representatives of the British National Party, Ukip, Green Party, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. There has been pressure for other parties to receive more airtime following the decision to exclude them from the three prime-time leaders' debates.

A tough week for Gordon Brown continues tonight with his interview in Jeremy Paxman Interviews: Gordon Brown on BBC1 (8.30pm).


Away from the campaign

The BBC presenter Adrian Chiles presents his final edition of The One Show before he moves to ITV on a four-year contract, where he will host the channel's football coverage and take over on the GMTV sofa. Chiles has been with The One Show since it first started in August 2006.

Follow the New Statesman team on Facebook.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.