One Labour MP still defending tower blocks is Andrew Slaughter who represents Ealing Acton and Shepherd's Bush. The Guardian this morning reports his claim that redeveloping estates to replace these eyesores and provide their tenants with improved accommodation is "social cleansing."
Slaughter claims that the aspiration to increase home ownership in Hammersmith and Fulham from 43% to 50% represents "gerrymandering" by the local council. The problem he has is that 70% of Council tenants want to become home owners and the Council is seeking to provide shared ownership schemes that could make this affordable for as many of them as possible.
Another problem he has is that many of the ideas he denounced are shared by his Labour colleagues. Many Labour Councils are seeking to redevelop estates with a greater social mix. Sir Robin Wales, the Labour Mayor of Newham, has resisted targets for increased social rented accommodation in his borough as he does not want to "import poverty." Are they gerrymandering too?
Seeking to gradually reduce the rent subsidy for Council tenants is Government policy. Labour politicians have suggested that future tenancies should not provide a "Council house for life." The former Labour Housing Minister Chris Leslie has said: "I think it is absolutely right to start asking the question can we help people throughout the most difficult parts of their lives rather than just seeing a council house as a house for perpetuity."
A report by the Smith Institute, Gordon Brown's favourite think tank named after John Smith, declared: "Social Housing isn't working." It added: "How much social justice can our dynamic economy achieve while so many of the poorest are still lumped together as a single group on stigmatised estates?"
The former Labour Housing Minister, Caroline Flint, said in her Fabian Society lecture that there is "a worsening picture of increasing levels of worklessness among social tenants – and it's just not good enough. Today, more than half of all households in the social sector have no working aged adults employed. This has been called a 'collapse' in employment rates among social tenants. And it's a major contributor to inter-generational poverty – with some children growing up without ever seeing an adult get up and off to work in the morning.
"Originally, council housing brought together people from different social backgrounds and professions but this has declined. We need to think radically and start a national debate about how we can reverse this trend, to build strong, diverse estates."
She added: "Many social tenants have a real appetite for change and self-improvement. Most say they'd like to own their own home. And if we don't work together to unlock their potential, then we are failing to live up to our responsibilities."
Of course New Labour ("at its best when at its boldest") is in no fit state to provide the radical change needed in social housing. That is why the Tories must take up the challenge. They will find Council tenants could be their greatest allies if the scare mongering for the status quo can be defeated. In their Localis paper Stephen Greenhalgh and John Moss stressed the need for tenants to be catalysts for change. Listing isolated examples of mixed communities being created in Sheffield, Hackney, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow the authors add: "All these initiatives required winning over tenants and involving them in the redevelopment process which is one of the keys to success. However Councils should not be put off bringing forward plans by a vociferous minority."