Leading article: Time to stop bickering and build some houses

There is a chance to boost the economy and renew the Coalition's purpose

Related Topics

The soaring success of the Olympics could hardly have come at a better time for the Government. After a confident start, the Coalition had descended into a farrago of Budget U-turns, economic torpor and increasingly acrimonious political disputes, a far cry from the dreamy promises of the Downing Street rose garden. The party atmosphere and stack of gold medals were a welcome distraction.

But even London 2012 has not been able to entirely mask the intensifying fracas in recent weeks. What was once sniping from the fringes has become thoroughly mainstream, reaching its apogee in this week's contretemps over Lords reform. In return for the Conservatives' reneging on the last of the Liberal Democrats' big asks, support was duly withdrawn from Tory plans to redraw electoral boundaries.

Nor, it appears, will the fractiousness end with a single round of tit for tat. The Prime Minister has vowed to press ahead with boundary reform anyway, potentially forcing Liberal Democrat ministers to vote against their own Government. Although unlikely to spell the end of the Coalition, as some suggest, such manoeuvres will not add to the bonhomie around the cabinet table, let alone in the corridors of Westminster. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are set to register their continued dislike of government proposals for secret courts at next month's conference, with disapproving noises about email monitoring and welfare reform also expected.

To an extent, such posturing is no surprise. Political opposition is in the nature of the conference season, after all, and both parties are starting to look ahead to the next election. For all that it is understandable, though, for the Coalition to descend into electioneering so far from 2015 – with all but the agreement on deficit reduction likely grinding to an argumentative halt – is a grim prospect. There must be more than just cosmetics, then, in the Prime Minister's attempt at a Coalition re-launch this autumn. But he will need to be courageous.

The ministerial reshuffle, tipped for next month, certainly has little to offer. Even the Westminster rumour mill is only running at half speed, damped by the knowledge that, for all the flurry of speculation about George Osborne, not just the Chancellor but all the big beasts are set to remain in place.

When it comes to the economy, however, there is scope for real leadership. Attention should focus on housing. This newspaper has repeatedly called for a significant house-building programme: to mitigate decades of chronic underinvestment, to rein in prices still far out of kilter with incomes, to boost the flagging construction industry, and to create skilled jobs. With recession increasingly entrenched, and the Bank of England now forecasting no growth at all this year, there is no time to lose.

The good news is that some kind of housing stimulus is – finally – under consideration. The bad news is that it has already been delayed once, and expectations of an autumn launch are also on the slide. True, the constraints on the public finances mean the Government cannot simply throw money at the problem. But there are any number of creative options available – from a national housing bank, to tweaking the quantitative easing programme to get credit to housing associations, to policy initiatives to take on the Nimbys – if only the Treasury would be bold enough.

David Cameron has a real chance here, to make a difference to the economy and to renew the Coalition's sense of purpose. To do it, he must rediscover the ambition evident in the shake-up of education, say, or welfare. But he must act fast. As the Bank of England's gloomy prognosis plays out, the Olympic glow will quickly fade.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The day that Britain resigned as a global power  

The day that Britain resigned as a global power

Fareed Zakaria

Daily catch-up: Liz Kendall speaks to the Westminster press pack – kamikaze or courage?

John Rentoul
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable