Stella Creasy: 'Housing is the absolute top priority' for Labour party

'I’m not the cool candidate , the amount of grief I get from my family about that'

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Indy Politics

Labour should campaign for the introduction of a bond that would be used to solve Britain’s housing crisis, one of the deputy leadership contenders has argued.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday before the announcement of who has won the leader and deputy position in two weeks’ time, Stella Creasy, second-favourite for the number two slot after phone-hacking campaigner Tom Watson, knows what she thinks:

-- The party has treated its 554,000 members and signed-up supporters as mere “cogs in the machine” to be called on every five years for election campaigns;

-- The Tories have used the distraction of the contests to try to get “a free ride” on introducing their policies;

-- As deputy, she will stand up to the leader if she thinks they’re wrong;

-- The SNP has not delivered on its general election success in Westminster;

-- She is “not the cool candidate”, despite her indie music-loving reputation.

Speaking rapidly, the 38-year-old MP for Walthamstow, who is best known for her work on tackling payday loan companies, said that her time on the campaign trail showed that “housing is the absolute top priority” for party members.

Ms Creasy wants the party to campaign for a bond dedicated to house building and home-ownership for first-time buyers, which pensioners would invest in and receive a good return. The average age of a first-time buyer is now 37, while house building fell to its lowest peace-time level since the 1920s during the last parliament.

This campaign and others could be “designed and run” by party members other than MPs. “For far too long, we have treated members and activists like cogs in a machine, to be contacted during elections. I want us to win elections, but I also want to win arguments.”

The MP has previously stated that she does not want a shadow cabinet role if she becomes deputy, because she wants go across the country and rouse the membership. She said: “We need to change from the grassroots up. This is not about control at the centre, it’s about a movement of people. I can’t ask people to be part of a new movement and then not stand alongside them.”

Ms Creasy also warned that political opponents always take advantage when their opponents are embroiled in leadership and deputy leadership contests. “This winds me up. I don’t want to let David Cameron and George Osborne set the terms of debate, because I disagree with them fundamentally. I absolutely promise that I’ve got my sights firmly trained on Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne.”

Although many leading Labour MPs have said they would not work with Jeremy Corbyn if the hard-left candidate wins, as is now expected, all the deputy leadership candidates said last month that they would serve under him to help unite the party – which is likely to be blighted by talk of coups and splits if Mr Corbyn succeeds Ed Miliband.

Apart from Ms Creasy and Mr Watson, the other candidates are Caroline Flint, the shadow Energy Secretary; Angela Eagle, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons; and Ben Bradshaw, the shadow Culture Secretary.

Ms Creasy, a former chief whip on a hung Waltham Forest Council in east London, said that she would argue with any leader if she thought they were wrong. “I disagree and agree with all the leadership candidates. I am my own woman,” she added.

The SNP trounced Labour in its strongholds north of the border in May, winning 56 out of 59 seats, up from six in 2010, while Labour was reduced from 41 to just a single MP in Scotland.

Ms Creasy argues that the SNP has achieved little since, appearing more concerned about moving Dennis Skinner from his usual position by the gangway on the second opposition front bench. The SNP eventually gave up, and managed to force the Prime Minister to drop an attempt to relax the fox-hunting ban.

But Ms Creasy said: “The frustration I have with the SNP is that they wanted to shake up things in Westminster and they’ve just disrupted where people sit – it’s wrong.”

The MP is known for her love of Twitter and her taste in music, which includes a jokey hatred of Coldplay and a love of The Wedding Present indie rock group – Ms Creasy wrote the sleeve notes of a recent vinyl release of Seamonsters, one of the Leeds band’s albums from the 1990s. 

Yet Ms Creasy insisted: “I’m not the cool candidate. The amount of grief I get from my family about that … I was never a cool kid, I’m very much not a cool kid. I’m sure people would say I’m snobbish about my musical tastes.”

However, alluding to how difficult it will be to rebuild Labour’s fortunes, Ms Creasy quoted from Coldplay’s song “The Scientist”: “At the risk of crediting my nemesis: ‘Nobody said it was easy/ Oh it’s such a shame for us to part/ Nobody said it was easy/ No one ever said it would be this hard’.”