We need a campaign to build homes across the Home Counties

The solution to London's housing crisis lies in building on the Home Counties, and we need a pressure group to make that happen. Anyone want to chuck the Campaign for the Promotion of Residential England a few quid?

The murky world of think tanks, lobbying shops and pressure groups is a crowded one - but I think I've identified a gap in the market. The Campaign for the Promotion of Residential England would fight bravely, relentlessly, and with a single noble purpose: to cover the fields of the Home Counties with bricks and mortar.
 
The other CPRE, as it would be known, would campaign tirelessly against the green and pleasant noose choking off London's growth, and demand the destruction of the greenbelt. It would talk endlessly about tower blocks (we’d be pro) and farmland (we’d be anti). "Nice national park you've got there," it would say. "Look lovely with a few thousand semis on it."
 
I don't actually believe all of this, you understand: housing costs are clearly too high, but trees are nice while American-style ribbon development isn't. Nonetheless, we need to increase the pressure on the powers-that-be to stop pissing about and build more housing, and if calling for the tarmacing of the North Downs is the only way to do it, then so be it.
 
There are all sorts of reasons we don’t build enough houses, but one of the biggest is surely the difference in political muscle between those who’d benefit and those who wouldn’t. The former group are legion – but they’re young, so less likely to vote, and are anyway spread too thinly to make their presence felt. They’re also – one suspects this is important – poor. By contrast, those most inclined to block major new housing developments will be those who already own homes in an area. These are visible, rooted, and, relatively speaking, rich. Which of these two constituencies do you think politicians are most likely to listen to?
 
What we need to do, then, is to rebalance the incentives, to make the voice of the have-nots that little bit louder. That is where my new pressure group comes in.
 
There already are organisations that campaign for an end to the housing crisis, of course – but these are mostly charities, and thus limited by both regulation and ethics. The other CPRE would suffer no such constraints. It would cheerfully offer statements to the media in favour of any building scheme, no matter how ill-conceived. It'd release dodgy research proving that the greenbelt did, in fact, cause cancer. And it would learn the lessons taught by a dozen ideologically-driven "think tanks" before it: that if you want to move the debate, then credibility matters a whole lot less than shouting very loudly and getting your name in the papers a lot.
 
In unrelated news, the Taxpayer’s Alliance just released a report calling on cash-strapped councils to replace lawnmowers with cows.
 
Getting homes built in any serious number is going to be hard. It’ll require a lot of reform, against a lot of opposition, and will need a concerted effort by a political class which, for the most part, has a vested interest in things staying how they are.
 
But the easiest way to create the political space to construct a million new homes will be to start campaigning for three million of them. That way, when prices level out instead of collapsing; when inner London gets intensified, but Tunbridge Wells survives unscathed; when the North Downs are left intact, and the only greenbelt land sacrificed is a few Essex farms clinging to the inside edge of the M25. Then most of those nimbies will count themselves lucky, and breathe a long sigh of relief that they got off so lightly.
 
Now, the other CPRE just needs someone to fund it.
 
Oh, bugger.
 
Construction workers work in front of already completed homes on a residential housing estate on the edge of Glastonbury (Photo: Getty Images)

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.

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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism