Rishi Sunak battles to keep a lid on Tory civil war over planning laws

‘It’s economics and politics 101’: Ex-Cabinet minister warns Tory vote faces London-style COLLAPSE across the country without more homes being built as Rishi Sunak desperately tries to keep a lid on civil war over planning laws

  • Ex-Cabinet minister warns Tory vote will collapse without more housebuilding
  • Simon Clarke suggests Conservatives will face London-style wipeout at polls
  • It comes amid bitter row between Tories over proposed planning rule changes
  • Rishi Sunak is battling to keep a lid on the growing civil war over housebuilding

An ex-Cabinet minister today warned the Conservative vote will collapse across the country without building more homes – as Tory MPs continued a fierce battle over planning laws.

Simon Clarke, the former Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, claimed it was ‘economics and politics 101’ that a lack of affordable housing would damage the party at the ballot box.

He compared the Tories’ success in his local Teesside, where nurses and teachers ‘can still afford a proper family home’, to the Conservatives‘ poor showing in London in recent elections.

‘Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least in part because you can’t make the case for popular Conservatism if you can’t afford to buy, or even rent,’ Mr Clarke said.

His warning comes amid a bitter row between Conservatives over proposed changes to planning rules.

Rishi Sunak yesterday pulled a vote on the Government’s flagship Levelling Up Bill as he battles to keep a lid on the growing Tory civil war over housebuilding.

Scores of Conservative backbenchers are threatening to rebel against the legislation in a bid to tighten rules on building homes in the countryside and suburbs, with a push to end mandatory targets.

More than 40 Tory MPs are supporting an amendment to the Bill that would ban councils from taking centrally-set housebuilding targets into account when deciding on planning applications.

Rishi Sunak yesterday pulled a vote on the Government's flagship Levelling Up Bill as he battles to keep a lid on the growing Tory civil war over housebuilding

Rishi Sunak yesterday pulled a vote on the Government’s flagship Levelling Up Bill as he battles to keep a lid on the growing Tory civil war over housebuilding

Simon Clarke claimed it was 'economics and politics 101' that a lack of affordable housing would damage the Tories at the ballot box

Simon Clarke claimed it was ‘economics and politics 101’ that a lack of affordable housing would damage the Tories at the ballot box

The ex-Cabinet minister compared the Tories' success in his local Teesside to the Conservatives' poor showing in London in recent elections

The ex-Cabinet minister compared the Tories’ success in his local Teesside to the Conservatives’ poor showing in London in recent elections

The Tories' manifesto before the 2019 general election included a promise to build 300,000 homes a year by the middle of this decade

The Tories’ manifesto before the 2019 general election included a promise to build 300,000 homes a year by the middle of this decade

The amendment is one of several proposed by former environment secretary Theresa Villiers that would bring wholesale changes to the planning system.

This includes making it easier for councils to ban building on greenfield land and providing more incentives to develop brownfield sites. 

The Government last night postponed a vote on the Bill, which had been due next week, by several weeks.

Sources said ministers would use the time to ‘engage constructively’ with rebels.

But Mr Clarke has led a fightback against the rebels’ efforts to alter the legislation and abandon central housing targets.

The Tories’ manifesto before the 2019 general election included a promise to build 300,000 homes a year by the middle of this decade.

Mr Clarke posted on Twitter: ‘There are important debates about the type of homes and the incentives that we can create for communities to support them being built – just as with other critical infrastructure.

‘But our inability to build homes is a politically-driven problem, and not inevitable.

‘We also have to recognise this is an issue where Conservatives bear a heavy responsibility.

‘Politicians of all parties play games with this. But we are meant to be the party of opportunity, and we are pulling up the ladder for everyone under 40.’

Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers is leading efforts to bring wholesale changes to the planning system

Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers is leading efforts to bring wholesale changes to the planning system

More than 40 Tory MPs are supporting an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill that would ban councils from taking centrally-set housebuilding targets into account

More than 40 Tory MPs are supporting an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill that would ban councils from taking centrally-set housebuilding targets into account 

In his comparison between the Tories’ political fortunes in London and elsewhere in Britain, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP added: ‘If you want to see what the future of the Conservatives is when we don’t build homes, look at London. 

‘Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least in part because you can’t make the case for popular Conservatism if you can’t afford to buy, or even rent.

‘The flip side, why can we win in areas like Teesside? It’s at least in part because if you are a nurse or a teacher, you can still afford a proper family home.

‘This isn’t rocket science – it’s economics and politics 101.’

The former Cabinet minister also highlighted an article on the influential ConservativeHome website, which voiced similar warnings about the electoral impact of Tory failure to build new homes.

Former MP Paul Goodman, the website’s editor, claimed the Conservatives risked ‘being dragged down by a death spiral’ without a better offer to younger voters.

He wrote: ‘Young people aren’t stupid. Whatever Conservative MPs may say, they can hear the music: that there’s nothing on offer for them.

‘Why should they vote Tory if the Party shuts them out from (home) ownership and capital? Nor are such age wars civilisationally sustainable, let alone just.

‘Nor can the Conservatives win elections on the votes of the retired alone. The party risks being dragged down by a death spiral – literally.’

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