You can’t make an old idea new just by saying it is.
David Cameron and George Osborne should have borne that in mind before they announced the ‘new’ policies with which they plan to relaunch (yet again) the Coalition government this week.
The plan appears to be threefold, with the government aiming to underwrite up to £10bn of new housing developments, and a further £40bn of private sector building projects which need finance – using money to be repaid on the government’s low interest rates, and it will also legislate to speed up planning conditions and encourage development on Green Belt land, if certain conditions are met.
The Labour Party has spent the last two years complaining bitterly at the government’s lack of interest in house building. It has been calling for construction of affordable homes, to be funded by a bank bonus tax.
Labour has also complained that major building projects have been falling backwards, due to a lack of investment.
It is also well-accepted that George Osborne’s plan to encourage building on Green Belt land is a renewal of a previous attempt.
But let’s go back a little further than recent history. I know I’ve already established that the new Tory plan is a modification of moves that Labour has been demanding for years, but there’s a better example that is decades old.
After World War Two, when the UK was in the deepest debt it had ever faced, the Labour government of the time decided that fiscal austerity was a move in entirely the wrong direction. Instead it invested in projects to rebuild the country and reinvigorate its industry. Barring the incursion into much-loved Green Belt land, this is exactly what Cameron and Osborne are planning now. But on a smaller scale.
So there it is. Not only are these ‘new’ policies unoriginal, they weren’t even Tory policies to start with (apart from the plan to kick us all in the teeth by relaxing planning regulations to prevent objections and build on the Green Belt – in other words, the nasty bits).
Somehow I doubt they’ll give credit where it’s due.