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Falling home ownership cost Tories votes, says Michael Gove

Minister blames housing crisis for losses, but insists it would be ‘bonkerooney’ to get rid of PM

Aisha Rimi,Adam Forrest
Sunday 08 May 2022 10:27 BST
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Michael Gove has suggested that falling levels of home ownership were a key factor in the Conservatives’ heavy local election losses.

The levelling up and housing minister said more had to be done to get Britons on the property ladder, noting the party’s defeats to Labour in London.

“There is a particular challenge for us in London and I think that challenge in London relates to ... homeownership,” Mr Gove told The Sunday Telegraph.

“That’s one lesson that I would draw at this stage,” he added. “The other one is that the Labour Party doesn’t seem to have made anything like the progress outside of London, that you would expect an opposition to do if it was on course for victory.”

But Mr Gove said Boris Johnson’s removal as Conservative leader over the Partygate scandal would be “boonerooney”, despite the Tories suffering a net loss of almost 500 seats in local elections.

The cabinet minister said there were no circumstances he can imagine Mr Johnson having to stand down, despite the potential for more police fines and the full report by senior civil servant Sue Gray in parties.

“You have to make that judgement in the round,” he said. “And overall on Covid, on the vaccination programme, on the booster programme, on the big economic questions, on Ukraine, the prime minister has consistently got those big questions right.”

Mr Gove added: “So I think it was right to apologise. But the idea of removing the prime minister over this, I think, is bonkerooney.”

Home ownership has fallen from 51 per cent in 1989 to 28 per cent in 2019 among 25 to 34-year-olds.

“I think that for young people in London, there is a responsibility on the incumbent government to address some of the factors that have made it more difficult for them to own their own home,” Mr Gove said.

He added: “There are people who are perfectly capable of servicing a mortgage who are paying more in rent than they would for their mortgage. That is wrong.”

Just last month, Mr Gove spoke at a conference hosted by the charity Shelter, where he said there had been a “failure to ensure that there are homes which are genuinely affordable for all”.

The government’s plans to increase the supply of homes form part of its Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will be unveiled in the Queen’s speech next week.

The reforms also aim to revitalise high streets and town centres, including by giving councils getting extra powers to force landlords to rent out empty shops.

Speaking on the bill, Mr Johnson said: “High streets up and down the country have long been blighted by derelict shopfronts ... We are putting that right by placing power back in the hands of local leaders and the community.”

The PM is also promising to deliver a “super seven” of Brexit Bills which will cut red tape and “unnecessary barriers inherited from the EU”.

As well as the prospect of a fresh round of Brexit battles with Brussels, Mr Johnson also faces pressure from his own benches to change course following Thursday’s elections.

Writing for The Telegraph, former minister Damian Green, leader of the One Nation caucus of MPs, said the party must reduce the tax burden and an end to “culture war” attacks on the BBC and judiciary.

From the right of the party, former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood called for tax cuts and warned governments “are usually only swept from office when the economy goes into recession on their watch”.

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