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Sponsored Post: Richard Lambert – Housing is too important to be used to create a legacy 

Richard Lambert is Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA). This is a sponsored post by the NLA.

Why has the Conservative Party turned its back on the self-sufficient, the entrepreneur who is prepared to work hard and plan for their future?

The Thatcher Government inherited a dysfunctional housing market, and opened up the sector, fast-tracked home ownership and liberalised the laws around private renting. Over the ensuing three decades this has paid dividends. The UK’s flexible workforce is able to move to where jobs are, students can move to study in other parts of the country and, at the same time, people have been able to restore previously destroyed pension pots. These are Conservative values which Theresa May undermined with an announcement to try and create a legacy.

Private renting has gone from strength to strength, and we have all benefited from the flexibility that it provides, which is why Number 10’s proposed abolition of Section 21 ’no fault’ evictions in April was met by landlords with dismay and outright anger. Anger at a policy that has not been thought through and is based on a news cycle, rather than solving the issues that do exist in the private rented sector. The announcement shows a basic misunderstanding of the private rented sector in the highest echelons of government. Landlords’ anger has yet to dissipate; instead it is now accompanied by incredulity at the lack of consideration Theresa May has shown for the likely outcomes of this proposal.

The importance of Section 21 is not so much in its use – only around 11 percent of landlords have used Section 21 in the last five years, according to YouGov. Section 21 provides landlords with a process through which they can be certain of vacant possession, as long as they comply with the legal requirements to give appropriate notice to tenants and in providing a safe home. As no evidence of fault is required, landlords can follow an accelerated possession claim and avoid attributing blame to an individual and stigmatising them. It also avoids putting both parties through a court hearing, in an already over-stretched court system.

Ministry of Justice statistics show that from July to September 2018, there were 5,183 accelerated possession claims using Section 21 which did not require a court hearing. During the same time period, there were 5,781 private landlord claims heard in court through the standard route. Without Section 21, the courts could see a dramatic and potentially catastrophic increase in the possession claims they would need to hear.

This is compounded by the lack of funding for courts, which has seen 90 out of 240 county courts close between 2010 and 2018, and increased pressure placed on those that remain. Is the Treasury going to reopen these courts and adequately fund the legal system? May’s government has repeatedly underplayed quite how dire the situation currently is for users of the courts system. National Landlords Association members take an average of 145 days at a total cost of £5,730 to regain possession using the courts. The lengthiness, cost and uncertainty inherent in using the courts has resulted in the reliance on no fault eviction.

The reality is, wholesale reform of the court process is a necessary precursor to any changes in possession procedures. A new housing court or tribunal needs to be introduced if the new Prime Minister wants to continue May’s headline-grabbing announcement. There would need to be a meaningful and successful change to the way landlords regain possession. Those involved in the tribunal will need to have specialist knowledge of housing law to ensure clarity and consistency with decision-making; something which is currently lacking. This cannot be accomplished on the cheap; who is going to fund it? Doing nothing will not be an option.

Removing Section 21 and failing to address the courts means piling more and more risk on the households who need the most help. Those who can’t access the social rented sector and who have no realistic opportunity to access finance for a mortgage are the ones who are going to find it increasingly difficult to rent a home. The Government is committed to ending homelessness; this one policy will undermine all the work that has been done and is being done by councils and central government.

The next leader of the Conservative Party has an important decision to make when it comes to housing. Does he want to lead a government which promotes aspiration to property ownership and self-sufficiency or one that can only look to recreate the mistakes of the 1970s? Scrapping Section 21 may seem bold and popular, but in reality, it is a policy that Sir Humphrey would describe as brave, perhaps even courageous.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Howard Flight: Ministers must embrace supply-side reform to revive home ownership

Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The main domestic policy which helped keep the Conservatives in power in the second half of the 20th Century and especially under Thatcher was both supporting the principle of Britain being a property owning democracy, and also making it continue to happen.

In the 1980’s we achieved in excess of 70 per cent of the population owning its primary residence.

The last 20 years have seen house prices increase to levels pricing many out of the market. As people need to be housed, notwithstanding prices, this in turn led to a major increase in the buy to let market, providing in total some eight million housing units. Much of this had been achieved by entrepreneurial individuals spotting local opportunities.

While it was under the 13 years of Labour Government that the property owning democracy started to decline, measures taken by the Conservatives since returning to power in 2010 have messed around with the housing market, in several areas causing serious harm.

It has been clear for some time that it is the supply side which has been allowed to get out of kilter, largely as the result of cumbersome planning laws and requirements. If supply is less than demand for a continuous period of time, it is not surprising when house prices go on rising.

The Government’s measures to streamline the planning process have had only mixed success. A lot of the ‘Interest Group’ environmental requirements, complicating the planning process – for example ‘bats in the loft’ – have not been sensibly simplified and are causing serious supply side pressures.

The shortage of supply is likely to see rent rises of three per cent per annum over the next few years as the result of the demand for new homes outstripping supply.

Where I would have thought the most important thing for Government to be doing now is increasing the supply, we are now seeing measures which may serve to worsen the supply shortage further.

The major growth in the private rented sector with children living within it has led to much greater scrutiny of how the sector operates. It is vital that tenants and landlords both have the confidence that they can ensure their respective rights are upheld in a timely and effective way through the courts. The evidence shows, however, the court system failing to ensure that this happens.

What is needed is the establishment of a single, dedicated housing court as a matter of urgency. As the sector grows it is vital that tenants and landlords both have the confidence that they can ensure their respective rights are upheld in a timely and effective way including through the courts.

For tenants the system is far too complex. The web of different types of courts and tribunals enforcing the laws can make it difficult for a tenant to navigate the system. As a previous report by Citizens Advice noted: “the time involved in taking a disrepair claim to court puts off just under half of tenants whose landlord took longer to complete repairs than is normally reasonable”. More than half said the complexity of the process stops them.

For landlords who seek to repossess a property through the courts, for reasons such as rent arrears or anti-social behaviour by the tenant, it can take many months between applying for an order to it being enforced. Such lengthy legal limbo is not good either for the landlord or the tenant. Figures supplied by the Ministry of Justice in response to a written question from Kevin Hollinrake MP show that the average time to progress from a claim in possession in 2017 was 22 weeks across England and 25 weeks in London.

The Government has announced its intention to overhaul the way that landlords regain possession of their property to provide greater security for tenants. While it is fair that no landlord should evict a tenant without good cause, it is deeply worrying that the Government’s plans could lead to new forms of rent control.

Finally, under George Osborne’s period as Chancellor, the Treasury persuaded him that increasing the tax burden on smaller buy-to-let operators would reduce buy-to-let activity and so make available more properties for owner occupiers to buy. This has ignored the evidence that there is very little competition for the same properties between buy-to-let and owner-occupier purchasers.

The decision in 2015 to restrict mortgage interest relief for the sector was a big mistake. The argument that the tax system favoured landlords over and above home owners was simply wrong, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies noted at the time. The main effect has been to reduce the supply of buy to let properties, where as a result rent levels have increased. For the time being the priority should be to increase the supply of residential properties, and the best bet to this end is still buy-to-let. But we are in a crazy situation where landlords wanting to add to the net supply of homes to rent are being stung by an extra three per cent stamp duty.

The Government’s schemes for first time buyers are surprisingly generous, but can be no more that a short term palliative. It is blindingly obvious that what is needed is an increase in supply of residential property, which in turn needs both considerable streamlining of the planning system and a more positive approach to private sector landlords.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Steve Norris: Commonhold? Here’s a better idea – and one that doesn’t force management on occupiers

Steve Norris is a former Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party and Conservative candidate for the London mayoralty.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee recently published its conclusions on the issue of leasehold reform. They rightly recommended that the Government stop the really nasty practice by some home builders of charging ground rents which appear innocuous to inexperienced buyers, but which double over ten or 15 years, this causing real distress to their owners. The department very promptly accepted that recommendation, and as far as houses are concerned the practice will be stopped.

But the committee went further. They questioned the whole issue of leasehold ownership – particularly of flats which they described as, too often, leading to tenants being exploited through ground rents and service charges which have little to do with the quality of the building and a great deal to do with profit for the unscrupulous landlord. They were clearly right to highlight the way that tenants can be exploited under the law as it stands but their remedy – a transition from leases to commonhold – was quite simply wrong.

Some time ago no less august a body than the Law Commission also recommended commonhold as the answer to tenant concerns. Both bodies see this as a way to cut out the landlord – which, to be fair, commonhold does. In simple terms, it means that the occupiers of a building in multiple occupancy own the building collectively. They buy a share of the building, rather than a lease. The committee describes this as “free from ground rents, lease extensions, and with greater control for residents over service charges and major works.”

It goes on to say they are “unconvinced that professional freeholders provide a significantly higher level of service than that which could be provided by leaseholders themselves.” The committee may be right that, in theory, multiple occupiers can manage a building as well as a professionally qualified person. But they are seriously missing the point.

In reality, multiple occupiers of a single building, whether they are leaseholders or commonholders, face the same challenges. Few, if any of them, will live in the property for the whole of its life. They will have differing views on how the building should be maintained. The elderly couple who contemplate no more than another ten years in the property might not be happy to contribute to a sinking fund for roof repairs that they will never see the benefit of. The young couple next door might see that issue very differently.

By one means or another, commonholders will still need to decide among themselves how the building should be kept in decent repair, which their number is going to take responsibility for procuring the work – and, even more to the point, collecting the necessary contributions from their neighbours. Even assuming that one of them was a) professionally qualified and b) willing to take on the responsibility, those other all too obvious hurdles will still need to be jumped.

What happens in practice is that the commonholders invariably do go to a professionally-qualified managing agent to take on all these responsibilities – and thus are to all intents and purposes in exactly the same position as leaseholders. The managing agent has no interest in how the tenants afford their bills. The tenants have little exposure to how the agent determines who gets the work and at what price. In the worst cases, this itself is a practice prone to abuse.

The fact is that the answer is neither leasehold or commonhold (which is, incidentally, available now but seldom used because, one can only assume, ordinary occupiers see the risks that elude the great minds of the Law Commission and the Select Committee). Instead, it is quite simple – namely, to ensure that occupiers get appropriate, decent service from suitably qualified professionals who will be in a contractual relationship that will ensure they deliver best value for money.

That means regulation – which despite the leading voluntary industry body, the Association of Residential managing Agents (ARMA) calling for it, still hasn’t happened. But last month a group of freeholders, managing agents and developers signed a public pledge to bring about positive change in the residential leasehold sector.

Backed by James Brokenshire, this commitment to raise industry standards feels like a watershed moment to reform the current of leasehold ownership in a practical and sensible way that will really address the issues that all occupiers of multiple apartment buildings face. As part of the pledge, the Government made a firm commitment to “work with other freeholders and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive Code of Practice which establishes the responsibilities of freeholders and enshrines the highest standards for the management and maintenance of properties”.

This is much more like it. A mandatory Code of Practice is in the pipeline. It should establish clear, high-level minimum standards, and should outline how all the relevant stakeholders should conduct business and catches all the players in the market. Together, the pledge and the Code of Practice, if given legal backing, should ensure that freeholders act as long-term responsible stewards of properties, holding managing agents to account. Being mandatory, it catches the cowboys – which is exactly what is needed. Ironically, this is a point acknowledged in the HCLG Select Committee’s report.

Like most gut Conservatives, I instinctively dislike regulation. But as a pragmatic one, I also accept that there a huge numbers of instances in which it is quite simply the best answer to many of society’s challenges. As a minister in the Major government, I trawled through quantities of regulation looking at what we could dispense with and what we needed to keep. The issues were almost all about public safety and consumer protection and, in a very large majority of cases, I came to the reluctant conclusion that regulation was the necessary and inevitable response.

Ultimately, effective regulation, such as is envisaged here, is the best way of ensuring that tenants are given the right degree of protection, and that owners of buildings are able to ensure their buildings remain in good condition throughout their life. Most of us simply don’t want to be heavily involved in the running of complicated apartment buildings, and neither are we qualified to do so. Forcing communal management on occupiers with all its flaws and potential for conflict cannot be the answer. Time surely for the Law Commission and the select committee to think again.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

James Brokenshire is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup.

Supporting one group can sometimes mean disenfranchising another. But not in the housing market. We all collectively benefit from a society which can provide safe and secure homes for everyone.

The fastest growing housing tenure in our country is private rental. And yet for a long time our politics didn’t understand what this shift meant. Privately renting your own home has been a struggle for too many; paying unjust fees up front for services that don’t benefit you, living with the threat of eviction at the whim of a landlord or not even knowing what your rights are as a tenant.

And this should bother us as Conservatives. We should want all people to feel like they have a stake in their community, and that all the great things that flow from someone committing to a place and putting down roots shouldn’t be denied based on your housing tenure. The Conservatives should be the party of security and belonging, and nowhere is this more important than in the private rental sector.

That is why we have already legislated to ban unjust letting fees and strengthened the rights to redress for tenants. We’ve worked with campaign groups to get more information to renters and put pressure on the market to improve behaviours and ensure tenants get a fair deal. But I know this isn’t enough.

With more people choosing to rent privately, and for longer, we need to make sure the market works for them. Putting their interests on a par with landlords. The vast majority of landlords do a great job and also want to see their tenants treated with the respect they deserve. I know that we need to strike a better balance in the private rental sector. If a landlord has a legitimate reason to get their property back quickly they absolutely should.

And yet, the 11 million people living in the private rental sector need a little more support, because the balance of power as it stands isn’t fair. And that is why I’ve taken the decision to go far beyond the scope of the Government’s current efforts to reform the private rental sector, and abolish ‘no fault’ evictions. Because these ‘Section 21’ notices mean a landlord can evict a tenant without reason. Giving someone two months to move out of their home without just cause is simply wrong.

Landlords quite rightly should be able to evict problem tenants and we are strengthening their rights to do so. Yet, for the family renting privately, I know this reform will mean they can sleep easier at night, knowing that the housing market they rely on has become fairer as a result.

If you work hard, you should feel like your job will be safe. If you pay your rent you want to be confident your home will remain your own. If you pay your taxes you will want to know the services you rely on will be there for you. This question of security is a critical battleground for the future of our politics.

And the Conservatives need to become the party of security. I want every citizen to know that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a better future for them and their families. Today the housing market has become a lot fairer, and this is something we can celebrate.

 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Julian Brazier: Yes, the Conservatives must engage with young people – but challenge their worldview, not concede it

Sir Julian Brazier is a former Defence Minister, and was MP for Canterbury from 1987-2017.

James Kanagasooriam’s interesting recent ConservativeHome article summarised polling and analysis by Onward which should alarm all Conservatives. His thesis is powerful: we have lost young people’s support, and even that of those in mid-life, to an extraordinary extent.

His conclusion however – that we should poll young people and, based on the findings, move policy towards their wishes – is less convincing. Clearly engaging with youth and, indeed, those in their twenties and thirties, is crucial. But simply analysing what young people want and offering as much of it as we can afford would lead, I believe, nowhere, for three reasons:

We have allowed the Left to dominate schools and universities to the point where traditional Conservative voices on everything, from free market economics to the dangers of transgender therapy for children, are being excluded. As a tweet quoting Roger Scruton recently put it: “Once identified as right-wing you are beyond the pale of argument; your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake. You are not an opponent to be argued with, but a disease to be shunned. This has been my experience”

Ironically, just days later, an unscrupulous New Statesman journalist stitched him up in an interview, which resulted in the government sacking him from his (unpaid) post chairing an advisory group on housing design. His response is worth reading .

The gay former chairman of Kent University Conservative Association reflected after the 2017 general election that it was harder to come out as a Conservative than as a gay man. Some Conservative students complain of biased marking in subjects like history, economics and politics by Marxist professors. A Canterbury A level student activist tells me that he does not dare let staff at his (academically strong) school know he is a Conservative. Across the country ‘safe spaces’ and ‘no-platforming’ of those with conservative views by student unions are widely reported. Last year, Nigel Biggar, an Oxford academic was vilified by a string of his colleagues for teaching that the British Empire had benefits as well as drawbacks, while Cambridge has recently banned the distinguished polymath, Jordan Petersen, from a visiting lectureship because he was once photographed with a student wearing an offensive tee-shirt.

Rather than swallowing the world-view of young people today, we need to challenge their ideas. More of us need to follow Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme of speaking regularly in universities, and we need to introduce scrutiny of the syllabus and teaching materials in schools, using such levers as the new Office for Students and Ofsted. If those bodies prove supine, we could empower students to apply to a tribunal to have taxpayer funds cut off when their unions are promoting political safe spaces, no platforming or showing political bias in the allocation of funds.

Students are justifiably angry about a system of fees and loans which plunges them into levels of debt that the majority are likely never to fully repay. Yet, if we make comparisons with abroad, we see that the systemic problem is deeper than students – and the wider public – understand. In most countries, including other European countries, most students go to their local universities from home. In America, public sector tuition fees are usually lower than the UK and the private sector has built endowment funds to support the talented less-well-off. In Britain, almost uniquely, the vast majority of students go away to university, and rack up huge debts to cover both crippling accommodation costs and heavy tuition fees.

This is compounded by many universities packing their benches with people whose study is unlikely to benefit their careers. In November, the Education Select Committee published a report denouncing many universities as poor value and inflexible. While stressing the quality of our best institutions, the report highlighted that fact that almost half of recent graduates work in non-graduate roles.  Indeed, more widely far too many people are studying degrees in subjects for which they are clearly not qualified. What point is there in reading engineering, if you cannot pass a Maths A Level, for example?

Too many of our weaker universities are treating students as cash cows, who rack up debt without improving their prospects. This is producing an angry graduate underclass with shattered expectations, who are consigned to jobs they see as beneath them – and with no prospect of paying off their debts. Not surprising that the Onward study shows that those who qualify as apprentices are much more likely to vote Conservative than recent graduates.

The rise in interest rates has provided the final twist in the garrotte. That can and must – be reversed, but doing so will be expensive for the taxpayer. More important is that any serious (and affordable) reform must start from recognising that the design of our university sector is unaffordable: the traditional British residential model, which delivers some of the world’s best universities at the top end, is unsuitable for delivering affordable, job-enhancing teaching and training for those with lower attainment levels.

The second quartile of each cohort, broadly the bottom half of today’s university sector, needs a shift towards local availability of HE (or FE), avoiding crippling accommodation costs, as its counterpart in most of Europe does. Equally, we need to move towards a much higher proportion of vocational degrees, as in the USA and the Far East – and as the recent Select Committee report recommends. Loading the cost of the current behemoth onto young people whose earnings will never justify it – and ending up with the state paying because they cannot repay – is the worst of all worlds.

The third issue is the most difficult of all. The report shows attitudes on three critical and related subjects whose handling needs to involve explanation as well as listening. First, a high proportion of young people see us as racist – or at least as anti-diversity – which helps to explain why members of ethnic minorities are disproportionately unlikely to support us (they are also disproportionately young).

Furthemore, a bare majority of the young are in favour of controlling immigration, but by a much smaller proportion than in older age groups. Anecdotally, this reflects a widespread view among students and young graduates that immigration controls are racist, on the one hand, set against angry opposition to immigration among the less-educated, on the other.

Finally, access to accommodation – unaffordable housing to buy and rent – is a major concern, among the young and older groups right up into their forties.

This last point is hardly surprising given the cost and shortage of housing, but Conservatives have failed to explain the linkage between unaffordable housing and spiralling population, largely driven by heavy net migration. Last week, the ONS reported, according to the Daily Telegraph, that they are revising their population estimate for 2026 up by a further 700,000 over and above the three million increase over the next seven years they had earlier projected. These numbers, combined with ‘domestic’ growth (heavily increased by replacing emigrating pensioners with incoming young people) could absorb most or all of our new housebuilding, leaving little for the disappointed aspirants.

It will require a major effort to explain that the mathematics of supply and demand in our housing market is at the heart of the need to tackle net migration, not, crucially, racism.

James Kanagasooriam is right. We must address young people, or the Conservative Party will wither. Post-Brexit, it should be our highest domestic priority, but – like Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms on welfare – our response must seek to make the weather, not just respond to it.

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