In criticising Angela Rayner’s use of right-to-buy, the Tories have exposed their own hypocrisy

Critics of the deputy Labour leader are playing a dangerous game, writes Ryan Coogan – and it’s one that working class voters are sick of

Sunday 25 February 2024 15:25 GMT
Rayner bought her council house in Stockport in 2007, benefitting from a 25 per cent discount under right-to-buy, and sold the property eight years later for a profit of £48,500
Rayner bought her council house in Stockport in 2007, benefitting from a 25 per cent discount under right-to-buy, and sold the property eight years later for a profit of £48,500 (PA Wire)

There’s a famous quote, often attributed to Margaret Thatcher, that goes “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. It’s a very neat way for conservatives to dismiss not just socialism as a wider political system, but really any socialised economic programme they disagree with, including many that we use and rely on here in the UK, like the NHS and unemployment benefits.

Arguably the bigger problem with socialism, though – and, really, any system that deviates from the status quo – is that as soon as you start advocating for it you open yourself up to the possibility of your opponent pointing out that, well, haven’t you benefited from the current system in some way? Don’t you own nice things? Don’t you make money?

Moment Angela Rayner's mum calls and interrupts her mid-interview

Angela Rayner found herself under exactly this type of scrutiny today, when the The Mail on Sunday ran an article – based on revelations in Lord Ashcroft’s new book Red Queen? The Unauthorised Biography of Angela Rayner – accusing the deputy Labour leader of “hypocrisy” for making a profit on her ex-council house in 2007 using the government’s right-to-buy scheme. The scheme – which, incidentally, was introduced by the late Lady Thatcher – has been heavily criticised by Rayner, who has suggested that the policy may come under review under the presumptive next Labour government.

Bemoaning Rayner is another example of the sheer contempt with which many Conservatives seem to hold working class people – specifically those who, like Rayner, dare try to make something of themselves. Rayner – who struggled for years as a working class teenage mother – is being punished for the crime of following the rules, and still managing to succeed.

The presumption that people will be furious at her so-called “hypocrisy” is also completely out of touch with, and takes an insulting view of, the way working class Britons view the success of their peers. My mum lives in the council house that I grew up in, and she’ll probably never be able to afford to own it, even under right-to-buy. The same is true for a lot of people in my hometown.

But do you know what they say when somebody does manage to take advantage of a policy like this? When they manage to actually benefit under a system that sometimes feels designed to work against them? They say “good for her”, and hope that they can be so lucky in the future. To suggest otherwise is grotesque, and says a lot about the attitude of Tories towards the working class elements of their base.

Rayner responded to the story on Twitter/X, saying that buying her own house was “a proud moment”, and that she was able to do so by “working hard”. She turned the outrage back on the Tories, pointing out that the party has “since put the dream of a secure home out of reach for so many others”. She pointed out that the obvious problem with the right-to-buy scheme is not so much the policy itself, but rather the fact that council housing is frequently sold off without being replaced, making things significantly harder for those who, like my own mother, may not be in a position to buy.

The irony of the Tories trying to label Rayner a hypocrite when they are criticising her for taking advantage of a policy they put in place does not seem to be lost on her, and the blatantness of that hypocrisy is what has allowed her to dismantle their position so thoroughly and elegantly. This will not be lost on voters – particularly those from working class backgrounds, who are sick and tired of being infantilised by a party that can only muster the energy to pretend to care about them come election season.

That’s the core issue with the entire Conservative strategy at the minute. They’re very much in the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” phase – and nothing is sticking.

Come the election, whenever that might be, they are going to discover that the problem with hypocrisy is that, eventually, you run out of people who are willing to buy what you’re selling.

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