In which the otherwise estimable Danny Dorling makes the mistake of arguing with someone on the basis of Nicholas Watt’s reporting of their words!
The real segregation that Labour failed to tackle was economic. Rich people in rich parts of the country became richer. Poorer parts and poorer people saw far slower improvements in their material conditions between 1997 and 2010. It is true that educational divides were narrowed, child poverty did fall, unemployment was reduced, (especially for older people), but the rich got richer and the poor got a smaller share.
House prices rose most where they were highest to begin with and have now fallen most where they were lowest. As the latest census has revealed, the number of households private renting during New Labour’s tenure almost doubled between 2001 and 2011. The numbers with mortgages had fallen quickly, from 39% in 2001 to be just 33% all households by 2011.
Many of the newly privately renting are families with children in school who now fear that at any time they can be given two months notice to leave home (and possibly schools and jobs). As Ed said in his speech, “Britain is at its best when it comes together as a nation, not when it stands divided. That’s what One Nation is about.” Unfortunately we can now see that it was in housing, wealth and income – not race – that Britain became more divided under New Labour.
It’s true that there’s not much regional policy in Ed Miliband’s speech, but step into his shoes for a moment; what would a hostile caricature of Ed Miliband be more likely to do than drone on about the importance of regional policy?
The transcript is available here. The bit I’d like to highlight is here:
In housing, we should act too. At the moment, it is far too easy for unscrupulous landlords to prey on newcomers to our country. In Newham, the borough that hosted the Olympic Games, an advert for a diverse Britain, we see how new migrants can be exploited and communities undermined. The Mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, says that the record is of one house with 38 people of whom 16 were children.
This is terrible for people in the neighbourhood and terrible for people living in the house. We can’t expect people to embrace their neighbours, to build a community, if 38 people have been crammed into the house next door. And governments of both parties have done too little to tackle this.
We should crack down on criminal landlords so they cannot exploit people in over-crowded, sub-standard slum housing. And we should end the practice of using tied-in housing to pay people less than the minimum wage and lock workers into shocking housing conditions, isolated from mainstream society.
Mixed communities are the key to making integration work. And mixed income housing is the key to creating mixed communities. That won’t happen if developers are given a blank cheque to build housing only for the better off. So local government must be able to take action to ensure affordable housing is part of new developments.
I’ve stripped the linebreaks and put it in paragraphs for reading. He’s quite clearly going after landlords, and supporting local authorities in taking action about housing. The “tied-in” comment is of course a reference to this case. It’s not detailed policy, but then, it wasn’t that kind of speech.
I wouldn’t quite say “Miliband comes out for the Simple Plan” yet, but it’s progress.
Now, Dorling’s piece actually says he’s responding to “Ed’s words as reported in the Guardian”. The story is here, and it’s clear from internal evidence that Nicholas Watt was given a copy in advance or at least extensively briefed. Fans of “Will Say bingo” will have a great time. Watt didn’t think it necessary to mention anything about housing, or about the workplace, thus choosing to ignore two out of three policy areas Miliband touched on.
Hopi Sen points out that the bit-of-blue-Labour-for-the-dads language stuff has been policy since forever. In a cynical and Hopi-ish sense, I think Miliband did a pretty good job in serving whoever it is actually wants this stuff without making any actual commitments, while articulating a case in favour of immigrants, and getting at the housing issue.
Finally, this Daily Mash piece is outstanding.