Miliband's 1m homes: how on earth can he push it through?
Labour leader wants to create more affordable housing - but he risks infuriating Middle England
ED MILIBAND will use his keynote speech to the Labour party conference today to announce a plan to build 1 million new homes in new towns and garden cities by 2020.
But Ed's dream of making housing more affordable for ordinary people is likely to bring him directly into conflict with Middle England whose votes could prove crucial in deciding the outcome of the 2015 election. They may want affordable houses for their kids - but are they prepared to see thousands of council houses built at the bottom of their gardens?
The key to Ed's boost for building will be tough new compulsory purchase and planning laws designed to override the objections of predominantly Tory local councils who have been resisting plans to expand housing estates onto the green belt.
New town expansion was tried in 2003 by John Prescott, then Labour's deputy prime minister, who identified four areas in the Southeast - Ashford in Kent, the M11 Stansted to Cambridge corridor, the Thames estuary, and Milton Keynes. But Prescott's plans for 200,000 new houses became bogged down in planning objections.
The Guardian, which was leaked Miliband's plans this morning by the Labour leader's spin doctors, cites the case of Labour-dominated Stevenage council which has been trying without success to force the neighbouring Tory-led North Hertfordshire council to allow 9,600 houses to be built in its patch as part of the expansion of Milton Keynes.
Labour briefers say that they need the powers to unblock such bureaucratic obstructions. But one man's bureaucracy is another man's right to protect his view of the countryside, and if Miliband's target of 200,000 new homes every year for five years from 2015 is to be realised, the objections of Middle England will have to be confronted with a steamroller.
Miliband will announce the appointment of Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, to review how to push it all through. One idea mooted is to impose fines to force developers to release land that they have been keeping in land banks to maximise their profits.
The revival of council house building - which was virtually killed under Margaret Thatcher's Right to Buy policy - plays into Ed Miliband's desire for Labour to rediscover its socialist soul.
In The Times today, Rachel Sylvester says "the Labour leader¹s heart lies with old socialism, but his head knows he must appeal to the centre".
The Mole is not so sure. Taking on the privileged Nimbys in the cause of the greater good could make Ed Miliband feel more comfortable in his skin. There's no doubt he's keen to reinforce the message that his 'One Nation'
Labour party is for the many, not the few.
But according to one of his few cheerleaders in the media, Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, he may have to get rid of 'Iron Balls' before the general election, to secure victory. Miliband has said he will keep Ed Balls as his Chancellor, but La Toynbee says Balls has failed to recover trust in Labour's economic strategy... "winning back trust may yet need someone else to take Labour across the line." ·