JEREMY CORBYN took his left-wing message of hope to the good people of Reading and Milton Keynes yesterday.
Strange as it might seem to Tory Cabinet ministers and the right-wing media, most citizens there were more interested to hear what he had to say about housing, the NHS, low pay and public transport than about events in Venezuela or sanctions against North Korea.
His pledge that a Labour government will recreate a Department of Housing and ensure the construction of 100,000 new homes a year in the local authority and housing association sector is music to the ears of all who understand the nature and extent of Britain’s housing crisis.
House prices and rents continue to race ahead of wages. Unregulated market forces have been allowed to turn the clock back 50 years and more, when private landlords could screw tenants into the ground and landowners could use the leasehold system to fleece homeowners who do not own the land beneath their house.
In particular, the Tories’ deliberate destruction of council house building and the local authority rented sector has left millions of single people and young couples at the mercy of property companies, banks and the modern day Rachmans who are now free of rent controls.
Resolving this crisis will require a bold and comprehensive range of policies. A Labour government will have to go beyond those in the party’s general election manifesto this year, not least in order to halt the divisive and inflationary luxury property development that is blighting London and other parts of Britain.
Adonis misses the wider point
THE Morning Star rarely finds itself in agreement with Lord Adonis, one of Tony Blair’s favourite blue-sky thinkers. Whatever the question, his answer invariably included a major role for market forces.
But now he has repeated his call for university vice-chancellors and their highest-paid colleagues to take a 50 per cent pay cut to help lower tuition fees.
Unfortunately, the maths don’t work out very well. The average vice chancellor salary is now around £275,000 a year — almost twice that of the Prime Minister — and most universities will have no more than 20 staff on £100,000 or above, while tuition fees have increased to £9,250 per student. The Lord Adonis dividend might save them about a fiver a term.
The bigger scandal is that Britain’s universities have in effect been handed over to the private sector.
That’s why we now have vice chancellors such as George Holmes at the University of Bolton. As he told the Financial Times recently, “Universities are not public-sector bodies. We are independent, competitive organisations.”
Posing next to his Bentley Continental, which takes him to his 30ft yacht moored on Lake Windermere, he boasted: “I have had a very successful career. I hope students use their education to get a good job and then they can have a Bentley. Do you want to be taught by someone who is successful or a failure?”
Clearly, this is a vice-chancellor whose notions of “success” and education and of what defines a good teacher owe more to the private-sector boardroom than to any public service ethos.
As he inherited a family fortune from property development, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that he appears to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.