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Let's make Labour the party of the property-owning democracy

Most people want a home of their own - Labour should be the party to give them one.

The most important event for Labour in 2015 wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn winning the leadership election. It was losing the general election.

Nothing must cloud our concentration on this hard truth, and its consequences.

By 2020 we have to win a hearing, the confidence and the support of millions of people in dozens of constituencies who turned elsewhere last year. Doing so demands we are capable of giving voice to both the aspiration and unfairness that so many feel over jobs, incomes and housing.

Most of us in Britain aspire to own our own home, yet there is an increasingly deep-seated inequality between the housing haves and housing have-nots. Those on the highest incomes, or with wealthy parents, get the security, asset and financial gains of home ownership, while those on middle and lower incomes are locked out.

This is why I’m launching today the independent ‘Redfern Review’ into the decline in home ownership, led by Pete Redfern the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey and backed by a world-class panel of expert advisors from business, housing and economics.

It is first major review of home ownership in over a decade, and I hope it will help Labour open up and lead a much broader debate about how we get to grips with falling home ownership.

Under Labour in government, a million more households became home-owners. Since 2010 the number able to do so has been in freefall, with young people hit hardest of all.

New research I also release today shows that the number of home-owners under the age of 35 has fallen by more than a quarter of a million in the last five years. This hits all young people across all social classes but the biggest percentage fall has been in young working class households, down a fifth since 2010 so that now only one in five under 35s in manual jobs own their own home.

Housing has now become the biggest public policy failure in over half a century, and the clearest market failure. Opportunity and wealth aplenty for the few, but denied to the many.

Part of the problem is that the political cycle and short-term decision-making is at odds with the longer-term solutions our housing market needs. Current Conservative policy bears this out but Labour having nine housing ministers over 13 years didn’t help either.

In truth, for too long public policy has only scratched the surface and politicians have seemed incapable of making a difference. When asked early in 2015, 72 per cent of people said they thought it would make ‘little’ or ‘no difference’ which Party won the General Election to the housing problems in their local area. 

The base of analysis and terms of debate on housing have been far too limited for far too long. The Redfern Review aims to break out of the cycle of short-term thinking that dogs housing policy. It will analyse the causes of the decline in home ownership and possible future trends, as well as pointing to areas where action is most needed.

Just as home ownership is the first preference for most of the country, so I want home ownership to be the first housing priority for Labour. 

John Healey is the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne and was formerly housing minister, local government minister and financial secretary to the Treasury

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.