For sale signs go up outside a house in London. Photo: Getty Images
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Solving the housing crisis will be at the heart of my mayoralty

The single biggest thing that Londoners need from their next Mayor: a solution to the housing crisis.

The London I grew up in was full of communities made up of families and friends who had lived on the same streets and in the same area for years. The social benefits of that sense of community were there for all to see - the neighbour who would keep an eye on your house, a relative who could step in for a bit of emergency child minding, or the friend you went through primary and secondary school with celebrating the birth of your first child. It was London at its best.

Today much of that community has been lost. The main reason for that has been the lack of enough new and affordable homes. It is the single biggest thing that Londoners need from their next Mayor: a solution to the housing crisis.

That's why I'm running for Mayor - because I believe I am the best candidate to build the homes Londoners need.

There is no silver bullet on housing. Fixing the crisis will require us to roll up our sleeves every day, and get on with the hands-on work of bringing forward land, getting developments approved and then getting on with building them. I have a comprehensive plan to do just that.

I will lead a new London Homes Team at City Hall. I don't want to waste time creating a new external organisation. I will start putting this team in place from day one and they will report directly to my desk. They will work around the clock on getting London building. They will bring forward developments on land controlled by the Mayor - from finding the land, sourcing the funding to planning and developing. And crucially, they will work with town halls to help them develop their own new homes teams, and to bring forward land and investment for building. They will be an in-house dedicated development team, working with councils, housing associations and business in order to build more homes for Londoners.

Firstly they will get on with sorting out financing – new homes need money to build them. It is an obscenity, with the housing crisis London faces, that the present mayor is sitting on a £400 million underspend in his affordable housing budget not being used for Londoners. So the first thing I will do is get that money working for Londoners - working with councils, developers and housing associations to get more social homes built. I will develop a new 'London Home Bond', to bring in much needed private investment and will fight for greater financial devolution to do this on a grand scale. I will also work with pension funds to develop products that attract them to invest in housing. Meanwhile, I will fight for freedom for Councils to invest more in new social and affordable homes. 

But there is no point in building new homes if they are not available to Londoners. As Mayor, I will use all my powers and investment to put Londoners first when it comes to hosing. I will reinstate a 50% target for genuinely affordable homes, putting Londoners needs ahead of massive windfalls for landowners and developers. I will use planning powers to prevent 'buy-to-leave' investors buying homes just to leave them empty, and ensure local tenants and first-time buyers are offered first refusal on new homes.

And while we build the homes we need, I will do everything I can to protect Londoners renting in the private sector. I'll introduce a new 'London Living Rent' model of intermediate housing - linking rents to a third of income. I'll create a London-wide social letting agency, building on the brilliant work of London Councils and I'll push the Government to give the Mayor the power to freeze rents in the private sector. 

This Tory Government are planning a toxic mix of policies that will make the housing crisis many times worse. They want to reduce the benefit cap in London even further and sell off housing association homes. Together these policies will exacerbate the crisis and rip London's communities apart. I will work with politicians from all parties, businesses and community leaders to stop this from happening. 

Fixing the housing crisis really is the greatest challenge facing my generation in London. We can only do it if we work together - changing London for the better, together. But if we are to succeed, we need a hands-on Mayor, willing to role up their sleeves and get on with the hard graft of building the homes we need.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
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Not since the Thatcher years have so many Tory MPs been so motivated by self-interest

Assured of an election win, backbenchers are thinking either advancing up the greasy pole, or mounting it for the first time. 

One hears despair from Labour not just about probable defeat, but from MPs who felt they had three years to improve the party’s fortunes, or to prepare for personal oblivion. In the Conservative Party, matters seem quite the opposite. Veterans of the 1983 election recall something similar: a campaign fought in the absolute certainty of winning. Theresa May talked of putting the interests of the country first when she engineered the poll, and one must believe she was sincere. However, for those expecting to be Tory MPs after 8 June there are other priorities. Theirs is not a fight for the national interest, because that for them is a foregone conclusion. It is about their self-interest: either advancing up the greasy pole, or mounting it for the first time. They contemplate years ahead in which to consolidate their position and, eventually, to shape the tone and direction of the party.

The luxury of such thoughts during a campaign comes only when victory is assured. In 1983 I worked for a cabinet minister and toured marginal seats with him. Several candidates we met – most of whom won – made it clear privately that however important it was to serve their constituents, and however urgent to save the country from the threats within what the late Gerald Kaufman later called “the longest suicide note in history”, there was another issue: securing their place in the Thatcher revolution. Certain they and their party would be elected in the aftermath of the Falklands War, they wanted their snout in the trough.

These are early days, but some conver­sations with those heading for the next House of Commons echo the sentiments of 1983. The contemporary suicide note has not appeared, but is keenly awaited. Tories profess to take less notice of opinion polls than they once did – and with good reason, given the events of 2015 and 2016 – but ­imagine their party governing with a huge majority, giving them a golden opportunity to advance themselves.

Labour promises to change the country; the Liberal Democrats promise to force a reconsideration of Brexit; Ukip ­promises to ban the burqa; but the Tories believe power is theirs without the need for elaborate promises, or putting any case other than that they are none of the above. Thus each man and woman can think more about what the probability of four or five further years in the Commons means to them. This may seem in poor taste, but that is human nature for you, and it was last seen in the Labour Party in about 2001.

Even though this cabinet has been in place only since last July, some Tory MPs feel it was never more than an interim arrangement, and that some of its incumbents have underperformed. They expect vacancies and chances for ministers of state to move up. Theresa May strove to make her team more diverse, so it is unfortunate that the two ministers most frequently named by fellow Tories as underachievers represent that diversity – Liz Truss, the Lord Chancellor, who colleagues increasingly claim has lost the confidence of the judiciary and of the legal profession along with their own; and Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, whom a formerly sympathetic backbencher recently described to me as having been “a non-event” in his present job.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, was lucky to survive his own stint as lord chancellor – a post that must surely revert to a qualified lawyer, with Dominic Grieve spoken of in that context, even though, like all ardent Remainers in the government, he would be expected to follow the Brexit line – and the knives are out for him again, mainly over Southern Rail but also HS2. David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the little-known Ben Gummer, a Cabinet Office minister, are tipped for promotion with Grieve if vacancies arise: that all three are white men may, or may not, be a consideration.

Two other white men are also not held in high regard by colleagues but may be harder to move: Boris Johnson, whose conduct of the Foreign Office is living down to expectations, and Michael Fallon, whose imitation of the Vicar of Bray over Brexit – first he was for it, then he was against it, and now he is for it again – has not impressed his peers, though Mrs May considers him useful as a media performer. There is also the minor point that Fallon, the Defence Secretary, is viewed as a poor advocate for the armed forces and their needs at a time when the world can hardly be called a safe place.

The critical indicator of how far personal ambition now shapes the parliamentary Tory party is how many have “done a Fallon” – ministers, or aspirant ministers, who fervently followed David Cameron in advising of the apocalyptic results of Brexit, but who now support Theresa May (who is also, of course, a reformed Remainer). Yet, paradoxically, the trouble Daniel Hannan, an arch-Brexiteer and MEP, has had in trying to win selection to stand in Aldershot – thanks to a Central Office intervention – is said to be because the party wants no one with a “profile” on Europe to be added to the mix, in an apparent attempt to prevent adding fuel to the fire of intra-party dissent. This may appease a small hard core of pro-Remain MPs – such as Anna Soubry, who has sufficient talent to sit in the cabinet – who stick to their principles; but others are all Brexiteers now.

So if you seek an early flavour of the next Conservative administration, it is right before you: one powering on to Brexit, not only because that is what the country voted for, but because that is the orthodoxy those who wish to be ministers must devotedly follow. And though dissent will grow, few of talent wish to emulate Soubry, sitting out the years ahead as backbenchers while their intellectual and moral inferiors prosper.

Simon Heffer is a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs

Simon Heffer is a journalist, author and political commentator, who has worked for long stretches at the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. He has written biographies of Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Enoch Powell, and reviews and writes on politics for the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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