A series on the Government’s record and the Conservative Manifesto.
Newspapers and websites are prone to ask political parties to act, which is no bad thing in itself, prone to complain when they don’t – which again is no bad thing – but less prone to cheer when they do…which is certainly a bad thing.
A fortnight or so ago, ConservativeHome made three recommendations for the Conservative Manifesto, recognising in doing so that dramatic new announcements are as likely to harm a Party as help it, and that though we naturally recommend our own manifesto not all of its contents could be taken up now.
We urged David Cameron to make a radical offer on Home Rule for both Scotland and England, to commit to spending two per cent of GDP on defence and, as we put it, “not to close the door on garden cities“. We didn’t succeed with the first two but, on the third, the manifesto said:
“We will support locally-led garden cities and towns in places where communities want them, such as Ebbsfleet and Bicester.”
This is very much in line with what we wrote. Having pointed out that it is questionable politics to try to build lots of homes in many places rather than lots of them in fewer ones, since voter pain is thus spread out rather than concentrated, we said:
“The alternative is to commit to new Garden Cities – on the condition that, unlike Labour’s proposed eco-towns, these are founded on local referendum-approved consent.”
Signalling in the Conservative Manifesto that the door is open to garden cities on these terms was exactly the right thing to do, and those who wrote and agreed it should be honoured for it. After all, the crucial element in getting housing policy right is now less on the demand side than the supply.
There have been plenty of Tory policies to stimulate demand, such as Help To Buy (about which this site is rather cool), and the plan to build 200,000 starter homes for young people (about which we are a lot warmer).
What has been harder to see is how the supply of homes these policies require will be put in place – and available, too, to replace the houses sold off under the power-to-the-people Right To Buy 2 scheme. Garden cities – or garden towns of nearer 10,000 homes than 15,000 – are part of the answer.