If Boris Johnson breaks his promise to build more homes, he will lose Tory votes for generations to come


This weekend, Michael Gove gave Boris Johnson’s incomparable defense on Partygate. “The idea of ​​removing the Prime Minister for this, I think, is astonishing,” the level-up secretary said.

In his morning media round today, Gove looked almost a bit mad as he expressed his irritation over the media coverage of when and if the Prime Minister would do more for the cost of living.

In what is almost certainly the first time for a minister, he went on television and imitated in an acceptable way the comedian Harry Enfield. The Scousers sketch and said the Treasury Department wanted people to do it “take it easy” on the idea of ​​an emergency budget for summer.

The allusion seemed appropriate, because in recent months it has been Gove who has quietly taken on the role of the calmer boss of the Tory backers, many of whom were furious at the Prime Minister’s previous plans to radically loosen planning rules to allow for more building construction. .

This move to appease angry MPs began in June last year when the party lost the by-elections in Chesham and Amersham to an astonishingly liberal movement following a campaign claiming the Tories wanted to materialize in the south.

The results of last week’s local elections confirmed with flying colors the LibDem threat against the “blue wall” promised by Ed Davey, where his party’s advance turned into a downturn in places like Richmond, Kingston, West Oxfordshire and parts of Surrey and Kent.

The large-scale withdrawal from the original plans – which would have created building zones that needed less local consensus – is confirmed in the Queen’s speech’s flagship legislation of 2022, the Leveling and Regeneration Act.

Gove’s predecessor Robert Jenrick yesterday was quick to warn that his 2019 party manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year (by 2025) would lack “a land mile” due to the mitigation of urban planning reforms.

Today, Gove was honest enough to admit “I do not think we will reach that goal this year.” But it went much further. “You’re not just trying to reach a statistical goal, I certainly do not,” he added. “It’s not a kind of success just to hit a target if the houses built are bad, in the wrong place, do not have the necessary infrastructure.”

It sounded a lot like the goals were being watered down, if not completely abandoned. Downing Street today seemed to take a gentle distance from Gove’s gentle turn away from the lens. Asked if the ambition of 300,000 new homes a year had been abandoned, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “No”. Yet he added a careful nuance, saying that “progress toward this goal” was “central” to the government’s mission.

It is worth pointing out that the Tory Manifesto actually stated that the annual target “will see us build at least one million more homes, of all conditions, in the next parliament” (ie by 2024). That promise looks not just like a country a mile away, but light years away.

And after several broken manifesto promises – not to increase national insurance, to maintain the “triple block” of pensions, to protect aid spending, to prevent people from having to sell their homes to pay for welfare, not to cut back on the UK army – this is another one that can really hurt the Conservatives.

Although Gove messes with the planning system to allow for “street voices” about certain developments, it seems clear that Nimby’s vote won the day. And while it has been praised by groups like Shelter for its plans to improve social housing and tenancy rights, millions of people believe the government is not doing enough to help them climb the housing ladder or cut rents .

The difficulty is that by failing to build new homes, Gove also risks cutting out the supply side of its political foundation. Margaret Thatcher got millions of votes from the working class and lower middle class by giving people the right to buy their own home. Johnson became the first Tory leader after Thatcher to win a significant majority because he attracted homeowners – and those with ambitions to own a home – in the North and Midlands.

An important indicator that someone will vote for Tory is whether they own a home (and also a bachelor in “Red Wall”). Tenants, often college-educated, tend to vote for non-conservative parties. Moving away from the goal of construction, many will conclude that Gove has chosen to stand on the “blue wall” and possibly lose potential voters across the country.

For a party that believes in aspiration and home ownership as a path to individual freedom, it really sounds like an election and demographic disaster. Bonkerooney, you might as well call him.


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