Council Housing, Migration, And Insecurity

Council housing, migration, and insecurity

Patrick Wintour, political editor
Tuesday May 22, 2007
The Guardian

Jon Cruddas, the one-time dark horse candidate for the Labour deputy leadership, launches his campaign today with the claim that far from offering a leftwing throwback to the early 80s, he has been the candidate doing most to address the challenges of the future.

His campaign is largely built round the three, linked issues of affordable housing, the new, largescale migration flows and the growing economic insecurity of the working class.

The agenda has led Mr Cruddas's critics to claim he is the candidate for the overheating south-east, and not the nation. But Mr Cruddas replies: “It is an easy criticism to make, but difficult to sustain. When we started talking about housing a year ago, no one was talking about it – now everyone is. If housing was addressing a small part of the electoral landscape, and something just going on in my constituency, I don't think everyone would be joining in.”

He also pointed out he will be launching his campaign in Sandwell in the West Midlands, an area in which the British National party has tried to make progress by feeding off the issues that Mr Cruddas says Labour is neglecting.

He told the Guardian: “The lack of affordable social housing units is the outstanding public policy failure,” adding that the government had failed in its goal of pushing the private housing market into building more homes. “For years in our constituency, we've been arguing if we had 6,000 extra council units, we could deal with the pressures in terms of housing and transfers.”

He says the root of the problem lies in the council having to give to the central government's housing revenue account 14m a year in council house rents. “If central government said the council could retain this rent, we could purchase on the private market buy-to-let properties at a rate of 100 a year, and then we could use the rent money to reinvest and borrow against this stock. So it is not a case of waiting for new build, it is a case of being creative now.”

Mr Cruddas' second issue is migration. He claims the rightwing thinktank Migration Watch uses statistics that are correct. “Now, because David Cameron wants to decontaminate his party, he won't talk about it, and the Labour party won't talk about it because of the concerns around immigration. So both parties collude in ignoring what is happening … If the population is growing faster than the state finances public services, then you have got a problem.”

The Cruddas solution would send shivers through the Daily Mail – in effect an amnesty for illegal migrants.

“You need to start from the fact there are 500,000 people with kids here for a long time, who have become the cornerstone of our flexible labour market. They would cost 11,000 each to deport … you could have a once and for all opportunity to deal with the legacy of previous government failures, in the context of introducing identity cards, by agreeing to a one-off earned regularisation.”

That brings him to the rise of insecurity among the poorest in the country fuelled by legal and illegal migrant labour. He accepts that migration has kept inflation and interest rates down, but says: “If we are going to accept the macro-economic benefits, then we have to accept the micro-economic responsibilities that people are not being abused in the process.”