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Property porn and the Labour right

Now before we start let me just throw out an idea, that there’s a PhD to be had in mapping and comparing the locations of properties featured in HomesUnder The Hammer and Escap to the Country. Stick with me as I explain where that idea comes from, and what it means in terms of the right wing of the Labour party.

Homes Under the Hammer features properties being sold at auction to buyers who are looking to either flip the property, or make a return from renting the property out.The wholeprogramme is structured around before and after visits to the property, and valuations of both resale value and rental returns by local ‘property professionals’.

Escape To The Country features potential purchasers, from a large town or city, looking to escape to the country by selling their existing property and buying somewhere more rural, attractive and remote. They’re shown three properties, usually priced somewhere above the average price of a detached property in the area, and invited to guess the price.

Now bear in mind that both programmes are public service broadcasting, produced by the BBC. They’re pictures of a kind of Britain, a place some of the British occupy.

If you map out where Homes Under The Hammer visits, you’ll find it on the edges of urban areas, visitting council estates where right tobuy has created new opportunities for landlords, or streets of Victorian terraces where dilapidation means £10k judiciously spent can make a house rentable. HUTH doesn’t visit London as much as you’d expect, because opportunities for flipping are scarcer in London than they are in Stoke or Stockton.

ETTC on the other hand, features a disproportionate number of London residents looking to move to the west country, or other areas of high property values within easy reach of London. We don’t see much of them north of Hadrian’s Wall.

This by the way is public service broadcasting. I know, that’s twice I’ve said that, but it deserves repeating. Apparenly, it is a public service to show people spending more than the national average for a detached house on their retirement house  in the Blackdown Hills, or flipping a Victorian terrace in Burnley.

The Labour Right are fond of a demographic they call socially conservative Labour supporters, who tend to be older and whiter than the average Labour supporter. The Labour right cite the ‘socially conservative’voters as being lost Labour votes, people who see England changing and don’t like it much. Tristram Hunt explicitly appeals to th rest of Labour to prioritize them here.

Tristram Hunt may not be familiar with the A69 between Newcastle and Carlisle. If he was, he’d maybe have noticed the stretch about ten miles out of Newcastle, on the rolling slopes of the Tyne Valley, where, to the south, a double line of ramshackle chalets appears in the side of a field.It looks like a refugee encampment but it’s actually the original escape to the country, a collection of weekend chalets built by working class men and women from Newcastle as a weekend alternative to the cluttered streets of Heaton and Walker. As the countryside has become closed off to the residents of cities those chalets have become prized and scarce commodities but they began as working class aspirations

Older Labour voters, watching HUTH or ETTC on a TV channel they fund, via the license fee, are entitled to feel lost, abandoned and confused. What makes them confused is the point Trisram Hunt and his friends miss.Is this the Britain they voted for and cared about, a Britain of property spivs making profits off ex-council houses or cashing in their innings on the London property lottery to turn another ruralhome into a retirement dream?

On this blog we’re strong believers that Labour is a coalition, that socially conservative Labour voters gave the party free licence to do as it wished socially provided it delivered its side of the bargain; social security, employment rights (and a right to be employed), social mobility and a health service.

Does anyone wonder if the wall to wall showing of HUTH and ETTC on the public service broadcaster does not say to Labour voter’You lost’, that the Phillistines have won?

If Labour wants to talk to socially conservative voters, it needs, not to ask them what they fear, but why they’ve abandoned Labour. If Labour cannot say it will build a society in which housing is a right, not a lottery ticket, it cannot win back individuals who thought Labour was the party of housing and social security.

Labour coulddo far worse than start by asking why the BBC praises the winners of that housing lottery, instead of talking about solutions for everyone, so that secure safehousing becomes a right, not a privilege.

 

 

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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