What a nice chap Sir Keir Starmer is! And so caring when it comes to the working class.
His mentioning the working classes three times was a calculated ploy. He wanted to emphasise that he will defend their interests. The implication was that the Toriesaren’t doing so.
He hopes that his proposal to build ‘one and a half million new homes across the country’ will put him squarely on the side of those working-class people who yearn to own their own house. Everyone knows the Tories have failed on this front, and that the housing crisis has got worse during their 13 years in power.
Sir Keir bullishly promised ‘shovels in the ground, cranes in the sky’, and undertook to ‘build the next generation of Labour new towns’. In other words, if elected his party will set about concreting over great swathes of the English countryside.
Many will applaud Sir Keir’s plan. It has even been welcomed in some supposedly Right-wing quarters, such as the Adam Smith Institute. There’s a widespread view that Labour is connecting with people’s concerns, and that the Tories are hopelessly out of touch.
May I dissent — at least so far as Labour is concerned? My complaint about Sir Keir is that he isn’t telling the truth. Like so many politicians, including Tory ones, he talks about the housing crisis without ever alluding to the major contributory cause. Immigration.
This word didn’t appear in his speech. Not once. Discussing the shortage of affordable homes without citing the effects of uncontrolled immigration is a bit like telling the story of Isaac Newton observing an apple fall from a tree without mentioning the effect of gravity.
Last year, net legal immigration reached an all-time high of 606,000. Illegal immigration was around 50,000. That’s an awful lot of people. All have to be found somewhere to live. Most will rent in the short term, and some of these will aspire to buy their own homes.
There’s no mystery about the effects of high immigration on housing. In 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published various forecasts. One of them, called the ‘high migration scenario’, imagined overseas net migration to England at a constant 263,000 per year, which was the actual level in 2019. This would see the number of households increase from 23.2 million in 2018 to 27.9 million in 2043 — a rise of 4.7 million.
Sir Keir’s shovels and cranes are going to be working very hard to fulfil that target since he envisages building a mere one and a half million new homes over an unspecified period, though this would admittedly be a spectacular achievement in comparison with what the Tories have achieved.