Tweet The announcement by Cameron that council tenancies will be of limited duration in future rather than for life seems to have ruffled a few feathers amongst his coalition partners. It is, though, a natural continuation of the basic hostility to council housing which Thatcher displayed with her 'Right to Buy' legislation, but without the underlying understanding of people.
I was always a bit ambivalent about the 'Right to Buy' legislation, to be honest. On the one hand, as a member for part of the 1980s of the Housing Committee of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, I could see at first hand the effect that it was going to have on our ability to house people. But on the other, I also understood very well how appealing the idea was to a large number of the tenants on the two small council estates where I grew up.
Whilst Thatcher may well have been motivated primarily by reducing the quantity of local government housing, and reducing the power of local government in general, she also touched a chord amongst tenants. It is sometimes too easy for us to overlook that. It was a skilful piece of politics, which encouraged people to put their own immediate interests ahead of longer term collective interests. (And that's actually a neat summary of what 'Thatcherism' was really about – and the impact it's had on society.)
It pleased her party's right wing, of course, and I'm sure that Cameron's announcement will have done likewise. But there, the similarity ends. Thatcher saw families living in and wanting to own their homes, and offered them a large carrot. Cameron seems only to see an insufficiently mobile labour force occupying publicly owned dwelling units, and is trying to wave a large stick.
He's not only wrong – it's not even clever politics.
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