Johnson launches housing plans in wake of backbench revolt

This afternoon Boris Johnson has addressed rising prices and launched new housing plans in an apparent attempt to relaunch his premiership following Monday’s vote of confidence.

Earlier today levelling up and housing secretary Michael Gove said plans to expand “Right to Buy” would be capped to a certain number, which he failed to disclose.

Speaking in the Lancashire seaside resort of Blackpool, the prime minister referred to the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations, and said that over the past 7 decades of Elizabeth II’s reign, there has been an uneven but “unimaginable” shift in living standards.

He admitted that the country is “steering into the wind” as it recovers from the Covid pandemic, but that large-scale unemployment was not an issue at it was in the 1980s and the 1990s.

He admitted that record job vacancies were contributing to inflation but that the government risked “fanning the flames’ of inflation” if it focused on spending rather than tackling long-term causes of the issues.

This is a marked departure from Johnson’s claim at last September’s Conservative party conference that inflation fears were “unfounded”.

He argued that UK is in possession of “the tools we need to get on top of rising prices.”

“The global headwinds are strong but our engines… are stronger, we will get through it,” he went on.

He said that while soaring prices meant some households were finding things “simply unaffordable, the government has already pledged £37 billion in support.

“We will back Britain and we will back the British people for as long as it takes,” he went on.

He also said a “bad peace” in Ukraine must be avoided and that such a decision would simply mean the crocodile [Vladimir Putin] would simply come back for more”. 

Johnson disagreed with the argument that the main housing issue is the lack of affordable homes, saying there are already  a “huge number” of affordable homes under construction, and that the Conservatives have already built more affordable homes than New Labour.

A report released earlier today by the Centre for Policy Studies made a similar point.

He argued that Labour restrictions on development had previously stunted the supply of such housing, saying that new plans would help the government “outbuild the Labour party”.

Johnson said that while Mayor of London he built more council housing than Labour mayors Ken Livingstone and Sadiq Khan.

He said it was wrong for the government to funnel a “huge wall of money” to landlords when home ownership is more beneficial.

He complained that just 31 per cent of millennial Brits owned property compared to 41 per cent in France, announcing that a review of the mortgage market would go ahead.

Johnson also made a number of further points, saying that the number of staffed ticket offices at railway stations ought to be slashed, and that tariffs should be cut on food imports such as Turkish olives and Turkish olive oil, and bananas.

Clive Betts, chair of the levelling up committee, has urged more detail on the new housing plans, saying this afternoon: “The prime minister needs to make clear that if the Government presses ahead with extending the right to buy for those renting housing association properties, it is vital the money goes back into the system of social housing so that new homes can be made available for low-cost rent and purchase.

 “The success of an extended Right to Buy policy will surely depend upon the homes sold being replaced and the housing supply being maintained. I hope the Government will explain how this policy will safeguard the provision of accessible and affordable housing, particularly affordable rented property.”

Matthew Lesh, head of public policy at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said of the government’s plans: “The focus on the mortgage market is misguided. The reason people cannot afford homes is because of a fundamental lack of supply, which has driven up prices in places people want to live. Low-deposit mortgages risk creating a sub-prime crisis.

“Extending ‘right to buy’ to housing association tenants and benefit recipients will help boost ownership, and in the longer run, may provide a more dynamic housing market.

“But, it risks merely shuffling around who happens to own homes, rather than lowering prices for those looking to get on the housing ladder. Ultimately, the only real solution to the housing crisis is planning reform, which would allow more houses to be built in areas where there is demand.”