On Tuesday of this week the Labour Party conference dealt a crushing blow to the government’s housing policy.
For the third successive year, the conference defeated the leadership and demanded the “fourth option”—direct investment in council homes without privatisation of any sort.
The debate shows how housing has become a crucial issue which divides the Blair loyalists from large sections of the unions.
Moving the motion, Sue Howes from Gravesham said, “I was brought up in a council house and council housing makes sense.
“The private market can’t solve the housing problems working class people face.”
“Privatisation means less security and higher rents,” she added, and insisted that tenants who vote against privatisation should not be penalised by having investment withdrawn from their housing.
To cheers from many delegates she said, “We hear a lot about choice, what about choice for council tenants?”
GMB union delegate Ed Blissett said the debate was crucial “not just for the Labour Party but for the representation of working class people”.
He said the party had failed to build council homes, despite ten years in office, and that this was “allowing the fascists to peddle lies about who is to blame for housing shortages in places like Barking”.
Other speakers from the T&G and Amicus unions strongly backed him up. Despite communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly claiming that the motion would cost £12 billion and lead to economic chaos, it was passed overwhelmingly.
However, a statement from the national executive committee was also passed, which means the party leaders will wait until a report is delivered early next year before even considering taking action.
Having stalled on delivering the fourth option for two years, it will take more campaigning now to force the government to start a big council house building programme and ditch privatisation.
Alan Walter from Defend Council Housing told Socialist Worker, “The motion passed was unequivocal in its support of the fourth option.
“Because there will be a report in the new year, it is essential, in the 44 areas where transfer ballots are now planned, that tenants stand firm in defence of their rights and to force the hand of those considering these issues.”
For more on the campaign go to www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk