After the disastrous election of June 2017, their shambolic annual conference, and the ongoing Brexit mess, things look bleak for the Tories. Recent polls suggest the Conservative Party now lags six points behind Labour, while Theresa May has received the worst public approval ratings of any prime minister since World War Two. With Labour resurgent under Jeremy Corbyn, the Tories seem to have become desperate.
The Conservative commitment to austerity and ‘Right to Buy’ has created a nationwide housing crisis. Housing charity Shelter revealed in 2015 that a third of UK local authorities had not replaced a single council home sold since 2012. Yet many Conservatives and right-wing commentators refused to acknowledge the crisis at all.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid appeared on the 22 October edition of The Andrew Marr Show. He admitted the existence of the crisis, saying that it was:
one of the biggest barriers to social progress in our country
And that he wanted to:
make sure that we’re using everything we have available to deal with this housing crisis. And where that means, so for example, that we can sensibly – you borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing – take advantage of some of the record low interest rates that we have, I think we should absolutely be considering that.
Javid’s statement – borrowing more to invest in housing – goes against years of Tory policy. Since 2010, Conservative figureheads have spoken of the need to ‘balance the books’ rather than spending on public services. Despite that, Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey was dubious. He said:
If hot air built homes, ministers would have fixed our housing crisis.
And he went on to describe the Conservatives’ record:
Any promise of new investment is welcome but the reality is spending on new affordable homes has been slashed since 2010, so new affordable housebuilding is at a 24-year low.
The Overton Window
Yet as Javid spoke on Marr, the Ministry of Justice also announced £3m of new spending for the prison service. Both of these represent significant developments and a change in direction for Conservative policy. It seems they are adjusting towards Labour policies, rather than Labour adjusting towards theirs, as happened under Tony Blair. The ‘Overton Window‘, which political commentators use to describe the range of views accepted by the consensus, has clearly shifted to the left.
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