Skip to Content

Coffee House

Ed Miliband’s price control pattern

1 May 2014

6:21 PM

1 May 2014

6:21 PM

Ed Miliband has got the reaction he wanted to his speech on the private rented sector, which he used today to launch Labour’s local election campaign. Landlords and nasty right-wingers hate this latest stage in his ‘cost-of-living contract’.

The Residential Landlords Association said rent controls ‘would critically undermine investment in new homes to rent and are not needed’ and the National Landlords Association said ‘the proposal for a three-year default tenancy is unnecessary, poorly thought-through and likely to be completely unworkable’. On Coffee House, Policy Exchange’s Chris Walker says ‘rent controls are at best misguided and at worst could be counterproductive, longer-term’. Grant Shapps suggested that these were ‘Venezuelan-style rent controls’.

Which is of course what Miliband wanted. He wants his announcement on longer-term tenancies for the private rented sector which will prevent ‘excessive rises’ in rent to follow the same pattern as his energy price freeze.

The pattern is this: Miliband identifies a genuine problem that frustrates many voters and which the government is making insufficient noise on. Miliband then announces a policy to tackle this which involves plenty of government action, possibly to an outlandish extent. The group this would hit, which is an unpopular group of fat cat energy bosses or heartless landlords, gets very cross. Right-wingers claim the Labour leader is having a 1970s socialist disco or trying to emulate the sort of chaps that lefties put on T-shirts. The polling shows the public like the policy. The government panics and announces a less significant (but possibly more workable) policy which reinforces that Miliband was right to highlight the problem in the first place.

The next stage, of course, in this pattern, could be that in 2015 Miliband then tries to implement all these policies and the nasty right-wingers and mean landlords/energy bosses are proven right. But that’s only if he’s won an election partly because the pattern above has worked out for him as a means of appealing to voters.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments