Will NZ Labour follow UK Labour with rent controls?

David Farrar

Fraser Nelson writes in the Daily Telegraph:

Something very strange has come over senior members of the Labour Party. Thoughtful, sensible, well-educated men and women are starting to behave like excitable, angry, slogan-chanting teenagers. A party that had gone through the painful process of modernisation in the Nineties, and made itself into a party of competence, now seems gripped by nostalgia. Not so long ago, Labour led the European Left in pioneering reforms of government – but that Blair-era generation has gone from the stage. In its place stands a group of people too young to remember the Seventies, yet seemingly dedicated to repeating its mistakes.

The latest to turn is David Lammy, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was a health minister under Tony Blair at the age of 29. A few months ago, he proposed an idea for London: rent controls, where the government lays down terms to landlords. There is a “patently obvious” demand for such controls, he said, because it’s so costly to rent in the capital. So landlords can be told not to charge so much. No one took the idea very seriously: after all, since when could government order lower prices? Wasn’t that kind of thing tried in the Soviet Union with, erm, mixed results?

But yesterday, Ed Miliband declared that he likes the idea so much he’ll roll it out nationwide. 

Muldoon tried rent controls. They were a disaster, along with his price and wage controls.

NZ Labour policy is for rent controls in Christchurch. Never mind this will stop new properties being built. Will NZ Labour propose rent controls nationwide? Don’t roll it out – many of their policies come from the UK Labour Party.

Mr Miliband’s strategy is, anyway, perfectly defensible. A populist wave is sweeping Europe at the moment, as demonstrated by the rise of Ukip in England and the SNP in Scotland. He is hoping it might also last long enough to sweep him into 10 Downing Street. Politicians can win easy applause nowadays by raging against the “establishment”, and accusing their enemies of being out of touch. In many ways, Mr Miliband seems to be positioning Labour as the Ukip of the Left; an angry party itching to exact vengeance on a growing list of enemies, inviting voters to blame their problems on corporate greed.

Sound familiar?

The economist Assar Lindbeck, a housing expert, once said that “rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing”. Who would have thought that this policy would be on a Labour Party manifesto in the 21st century? 

Watch this space in NZ.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.


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