This morning’s Daily Telegraph reports an excellent initiative by Michael Gove, Tory housing spokesman, that might increase the opportunities for young people to get on the housing ladder. Mr Gove, noting that first-time buyers cannot afford to buy an average property in 93% of British towns, is suggesting encouraging a form of home ownership where young buyers would own the ‘bricks and mortar’ but the land would be owned by a community trust that could protect the housing stock for local people.
David Cameron has championed the young housebuyer since the beginning of his leadership but there are signs that he is also thinking more broadly of ‘striver voters’. Strivers are described in ConservativeHome’s dictionary:
"When public policy goes wrong hard-working families suffer most. They are hit hardest by stealth taxes, the marriage penalty, interest rate rises and long hospital waiting lists. Gordon Brown’s means-testing maze is making a mockery of their efforts to save for their retirement."
Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard has made what he calls ‘battlers’ a core part of his electoral coalition. Strong policies on housing access, skills (as reported in today’s FT), community safety, relief from taxation and faster access to public services will all be essential components of a Tory strategy to reach out to those aspirational voters that were so important to Mrs Thatcher’s electoral success. Mr Cameron made substantial progress in 2006 in terms of winning support from higher income and professional voters. The challenge for 2007 is to win support among lower income voters and David Cameron’s new year message suggested that he understands that. He talked about the party becoming the champion "of working people" and he has put David Davis in charge of a commission on social mobility.
In an article for The Sunday Times, Mr Davis identified four key routes to wealth and wider success:
- Education and training;
- Working for a large firm;
- Starting your own business;
- The property ladder.
It must be hoped that the Tory leadership studies today’s article by Sir Eric Anderson in The Daily Telegraph. Sir Eric makes it clear that selective education benefits poorer pupils most. Is it too late for the Tories to embrace this important conclusion? Failure to do so will leave a big hole in any renewed Tory interest in the aspirational voter.