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 Telegraph’s bizarre list of 100 reasons to be happy about Brexit

“Old-fashioned light bulbs”, “crooked cucumbers”, and “new vocabulary”.

As the economy teeters on the verge of oblivion, and the Prime Minister grapples with steering the UK around a black hole of political turmoil, the Telegraph is making the best of a bad situation.

The paper has posted a video labelled “100 reasons to embrace Brexit”. Obviously the precise number is “zero”, but that didn’t stop it filling the blanks with some rather bizarre reasons, floating before the viewer to an inevitable Jerusalem soundtrack:

Cheap tennis balls

At last. Tennis balls are no longer reserved for the gilded eurocrat elite.

Keep paper licences

I can’t trust it unless I can get it wet so it disintegrates, or I can throw it in the bin by mistake, or lose it when I’m clearing out my filing cabinet. It’s only authentic that way.

New hangover cures

What?

Stronger vacuums

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to hoover up dust by inhaling close to the carpet.

Old-fashioned light bulbs

I like my electricals filled with mercury and coated in lead paint, ideally.

No more EU elections

Because the democratic aspect of the European Union was something we never obsessed over in the run-up to the referendum.

End working time directive

At last, I don’t even have to go to the trouble of opting out of over-working! I will automatically be exploited!

Drop green targets

Most people don’t have time to worry about the future of our planet. Some don’t even know where their next tennis ball will come from.

No more wind farms

Renewable energy sources, infrastructure and investment – what a bore.

Blue passports

I like my personal identification how I like my rinse.

UK passport lane

Oh good, an unadulterated queue of British tourists. Just mind the vomit, beer spillage and flakes of sunburnt skin while you wait.

No fridge red tape

Free the fridge!

Pounds and ounces

Units of measurement are definitely top of voters’ priorities. Way above the economy, health service, and even a smidgen higher than equality of tennis ball access.

Straight bananas

Wait, what kind of bananas do Brexiteers want? Didn’t they want to protect bendy ones? Either way, this is as persistent a myth as the slapstick banana skin trope.

Crooked cucumbers

I don’t understand.

Small kiwi fruits

Fair enough. They were getting a bit above their station, weren’t they.

No EU flags in UK

They are a disgusting colour and design. An eyesore everywhere you look…in the uh zero places that fly them here.

Kent champagne

To celebrate Ukip cleaning up the east coast, right?

No olive oil bans

Finally, we can put our reliable, Mediterranean weather and multiple olive groves to proper use.

No clinical trials red tape

What is there to regulate?

No Turkey EU worries

True, we don’t have to worry. Because there is NO WAY AND NEVER WAS.

No kettle restrictions

Free the kettle! All kitchen appliances’ lives matter!

Less EU X-factor

What is this?

Ditto with BGT

I really don’t get this.

New vocabulary

Mainly racist slurs, right?

Keep our UN seat

Until that in/out UN referendum, of course.

No EU human rights laws

Yeah, got a bit fed up with my human rights tbh.

Herbal remedy boost

At last, a chance to be treated with medicine that doesn’t work.

Others will follow [picture of dominos]

Hooray! The economic collapse of countries surrounding us upon whose trade and labour we rely, one by one!

Better English team

Ah, because we can replace them with more qualified players under an Australian-style points-based system, you mean?

High-powered hairdryers

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to dry my hair by yawning on it.

She would’ve wanted it [picture of Margaret Thatcher]

Well, I’m convinced.

I'm a mole, innit.