Comment: London, here’s why we’re better off red than dead
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Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have promised a hopeful future for housing, and a tax raid on property bought through offshore trusts. Their tax policies run the risk of putting off London voters, but a vote for the many is a vote for London’s future
To paraphrase a much disputed quote: ‘If a woman is not a socialist at 20 she has no heart. If she is not a conservative at 40 she has no head.’ The chances are that if you’re reading this column in the Property section of a north London local paper you own property, and therefore fall closer to the latter end of that scale.
At 24 and suffering from the delayed development wrought upon the generation who weren’t old enough to vote before the 2008 financial crash, I’m firmly on the red side of the political spectrum, but hear me out.
Robbed of hopes for our futures when we were supposed to be planning for them, it’s no surprise we responded to the socialist messaging of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. It is easier to vote beyond your own interests when you have few assets.
The new Labour manifesto promises to be for the many rather than for the few. They have promised to build a million new homes, including 100,000 council and housing association homes, set up a Department for Housing to tackle the crisis, empower councils to build more homes, have a consultation on minimum space standards, stop the Land Registry from being privatised, and make land ownership more transparent.
They want to build low cost homes for first time buyers, introduce three year tenancy clauses, cap rent rises, scrap tenant fees, introduce new minimum standards for rental properties, and stop the scrapping of housing benefits for 18 – 21 year olds.
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It’s a positive whirlwind of hopefulness, compared to the miserliness of the Tories who plan to pay for their proposed newgen social housing out of an existing budget.
Unfortunately, those with the most assets have the most to lose. All of those shiny, hopeful housing policies will be paid for with taxes, so the new Labour manifesto has declared war on billionaires. They plan to raise £6.2 billion by cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance, and £1.6 billion by taxing properties purchased through offshore trusts.
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London is a city that has very much measured its success in the number of billionaires. Billionaires parking their assets in property, attracted by our booming property market, strong and stable political system (at least compared to those mysteriously destabilised countries), and suspiciously chilled out rules about buying up off plan properties or huge Hampstead mansions through said offshore trusts. They also want to come for the banks and their bonuses, with a plethora of Robin Hood taxes.
I’m sure most of us would still support this, unless you’re reading this from your home on Bishops Avenue. But even I, hot headed and constantly skint twenty-something, can see the possibly fatal missteps.
According to Labour if you earn above £80k you are not one of the ordinary people. Maybe they’ll revoke my communist card for saying this, but in London’s current state, £80k wouldn’t get you that far. Sure, that’s an awful lot of money compared to most peoples wages, but it won’t feel like it. £80k won’t cut it when it comes to saving for a deposit.
Then there’s the fear that if the billionaires and the bankers flee, we’ll be left with north London property prices taking a tumble as demand falls. After all, there are few others who could currently afford them. There’s a risk that with a manifesto this radical Labour could lose London.
So when I urge you to vote for your local Labour candidate on June 8 it may sound like it’s just because I am in the position to hope for radical change. To ask you to vote beyond your own self interest is youthful idealism at best, silly at worst.
But if you vote for the many, you’ll reap the rewards too. The Tories won’t save you unless you are the fewest of the few. Austerity and tax breaks are choking ambition and turning London in to a playground for the rich alone.
From the strong and stable position of cold hard logic, let me say this: If you lose young people, you will lose London. Without hope for affordable homes or capped rents, most of us will have to leave, all that youth culture and vibrancy that London trades off for its Alpha city status will leach away, taking with it all that ‘cool’ capital and leaving us with shiny towers, an emptying financial centre, and not much else.