There are many things you could say about the fledgling Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. For some, it’s been a blast of fresh ideological air and a chance to shift politics into a newer, more dignified and constructive age, in which issues count over personality.
Others, meanwhile, have tended to point and laugh quite a lot, amused by the beard, the crumpled clothing, the refusal to sing the national anthem and the somewhat laissez faire attitude towards policy formulation (and that was just the first week).
Whatever you say about the elevation of a seemingly well-meaning but hitherto anonymous backbencher and campaigner to the post of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the one observation which has yet to be made is that it’s been a bit boring.
This applies to his Shadow Cabinet appointments as much as anything else. A vegan in charge of beef farming? No problem. A housing minister who won’t have much, if any, impact on the booming property market in central London? Certainly.
It’s difficult to see how the appointment of John Healey as Shadow Housing Minister will affect the prime property market in Knightsbridge, Chelsea, Pimlico, South Kensington, Mayfair and Westminster.
Given that much of Belgravia is controlled by the Grosvenor Estate and the UK’s economy is well balanced, it’s hard to see what influence John Healey can exert in central London.
Healey himself is actually something of a novelty within Corbyn’s inner circle in that he has served some time in government, filling the post of housing minister between June 2009 and May 2010.
He keeps a souvenir of this time in his office, presumably as a reminder of the time when he had just a tiny a chance of influencing the price of property in Belgravia.
The souvenir in question is a hard hat of the kind worn by construction workers and politicians who think that spending time standing near construction workers will play well with the electorate, and it is proudly emblazoned with the slogan ‘A future fair for all’.
Other facts which it might be useful to know about John Healey? He’s MP for Wentworth and Dearne in South Yorkshire, he has served time in the Treasury as both financial secretary and economic secretary and he has an interest in housing matters having been instrumental in a campaign known as Shout (Social Housing Under Threat). And he’s also a member of Amnesty International.
Following his appointment, Healey said: “Housing has long been a passion of Jeremy Corbyn’s, so I’m pleased to have his backing to do this job at full shadow cabinet level. It shows the high political priority he gives to tackling the housing crisis.”
Like most politicians who find themselves grappling with the housing market in the UK, Healey is likely to be well aware of the fact that the state, availability and price of property in prime central London is pretty much beyond the reach of political interference. A fact which, if we’re honest, is likely to come as a huge relief to anyone who has property interests in prime central London.
Why? Because one of the new shadow minister’s first moves was to accuse the government of doing a ‘back-room deal’ with housing associations in an attempt to extend right-to-buy to their tenants.
He went on to question whether the government was serious about ensuring that for every housing association property sold another would be built.
New stamp duty rates introduced by Chancellor George Osborne in December 2014 – and uncertainty in the central London market created by this year’s general election – may be responsible for annual house price growth in Belgravia, Mayfair and Knightsbridge stabilising, but prospects appear good for property values increasing further over the next 12 months.
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