Reaction: Red Wall voters won’t forgive Tory MPs for worsening the cost-of-living crisis

The Health and Care Bill contains a number of misguided provisions aimed at tackling obesity through new regulation.

This article was published on Reaction.

You might not realise it, but food prices have been rising for some time. Issues such as poor wheat harvests and increasing costs for farm machinery have quietly pushed prices up behind the scenes. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates a year-on-year rise of 30%. Most of those costs were absorbed by the manufacturing and distributions industries, so did not filter through to consumers – until now.

A perfect storm of problems – supply chain disruptions, energy prices, inflation and so on – is boiling over. Combined with existing food commodity cost increases, it is beginning to have a substantial impact on prices on supermarket shelves. Food prices are about to boom, and they will be a key component of the crushing cost-of-living crisis to come this year.

And yet, incredibly, the government remains wrapped up in its anti-obesity nanny-state fantasy. It is choosing now, of all times, to dive-bomb into an enormous expansion of the state, ushering in reams of fresh red tape to make life more difficult for businesses and add extra unnecessary costs to struggling households’ monthly outgoings.

The Health and Care Bill contains a number of misguided provisions aimed at tackling obesity through new regulation. They include the long-awaited ‘junk food ad ban’, an extraordinary policy which will cost the broadcast industry alone £200 million and reduce children’s calorie consumption by a grand total of 1.7 calories per day. That’s roughly the equivalent of a single Tic Tac, or half a Smartie.

Where the ad ban is costly for industry, other new measures in the Health and Care Bill will cost consumers money directly. For instance, promotional deals such as ‘buy one get one free’ will be banned for foods the government decides are unhealthy. Many families rely on special offers like that to make ends meet and will suffer as a result of this move.

The Food and Drink Federation estimates the new rules will top up annual food shopping bills by £160 on average. The lowest earners are set to face an 11 per cent increase in their food expenses. We are already hearing harrowing stories of families having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children and the situation will worsen over the next few months. Ill-advised, costly government intervention of this kind will only accelerate it.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the government clings to its backwards mentality that the nanny state can eliminate obesity. No one voted for the nanny state in 2019 – certainly not Red Wall voters – but we’re getting it anyway. To insist that restricting access to unhealthy foods will make Britain slimmer is infantilising and insulting. How must you see obese people if you think banning ‘3 for 2’ on crisps and chocolate will cause them to lose weight?

More concerning even than the government looking down on and talking down to ordinary people about their dietary choices is the economic consequences of this policy direction. Food insecurity could become a burning issue in various Red Wall areas in the coming months. A survey found that one in four consumers worry they will now be unable to pay for their weekly shopping with so many special offers axed. The additional costs from these regulations will disproportionately affect the poorest families in the poorest areas, many of which fall within the Red Wall.

In that context, it’s barmy that the government appears more concerned that the food we buy is healthy than accessible. It has no problem denying struggling families the ability to fill their shopping family, leaving them to go hungry for whole days at a time, just as long as their trolley doesn’t contain an unacceptable number of high-fat or high-sugar products. The thinking is completely back-to-front.

Tory MPs across Wales, the midlands and the north should think very carefully indeed about signing off absent-mindedly on an unprecedented expansion of the nanny state which will bring cost their poorest constituents money in a direct, observable way. Voters will undoubtedly notice the way their shopping habits are forced to change around the new regulations, and they will see the effects on their wallets. Many leant the Conservative Party their vote for the first time in a generation in 2019 – when they see what their new Tory MPs are doing for them, they might never vote blue again.

talkRADIO (Weekend Breakfast): Education, not the nanny state, is how we tackle obesity

I joined Cristo and Jane Mulkerrins on talkRADIO’s Weekend Breakfast show.

I joined Cristo and Jane Mulkerrins on talkRADIO’s Weekend Breakfast show.

Indie-pendent (online course): An introduction to freelance political commentary

Online Course: Freelance Political Commentary – How to Get Started

I produced an online course for student journalism network, The Indie-pendent.

The course covers:

  • Why write about politics?
  • Should you write for free?
  • Knowing what to write about – including sources to get political information  
  • Converting ideas/opinions into pitches – including news pegs, what to include in a pitch, and when and where to send your pitch
  • Turning a pitch into an article – including structuring your piece

In this course, you get access to all of the above and can also send me an article or pitch for one-to-one feedback, or ask any questions you might have about freelance political commentary.

TheArticle: Why won’t the government ban conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy is a heinous pseudoscientific practice with no place in twenty-first century Britain. It is linked directly to depression, drug addiction and suicide. Experts say it is akin to torture. Yet, it remains legal.

This piece was first published on TheArticle.

So-called conversion therapy, otherwise known as the “gay cure”, is a heinous and disgusting pseudoscientific practice with no place in twenty-first century Britain. It is denounced by all major UK therapy professional bodies on logical, ethical and moral grounds. It has been linked directly to depression, drug addiction and suicide. Experts say it is akin to torture. Yet it remains legal.

Almost two years have passed since then equalities minister Penny Mordaunt pledged on behalf of the Conservative party to “end the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy”. A national survey conducted at the time found that 1 in 20 LGBT+ people in the UK had been offered conversion therapy in some form, with nearly half of those going ahead with it.

More recently, the government has been stalling. Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities, has said that long-awaited legislation to tackle conversion therapy will be introduced “shortly”. She cites the complexity of the issue and points out that some horrific practices associated with it, such as “corrective” rape, are already against the law. While this is true, it is also a textbook case of whataboutery.

No substantial reasoning for the enormous dither and delay on this necessary and urgent move has been offered. Ministers have had two years to iron out any legislative difficulties. In the meantime, a petition has gathered more than 100,000 signatures urging state action. Campaign groups are hounding the government relentlessly. It would seem that kicking the can down the road is doing the government a great deal of harm.

Why, then, has this two-year-old promise still not been realised? It was made by a different government, under a different prime minister. But Boris Johnson has been ahead of his party on issues of equality for years. He has rebelled against the Tory whip on several occasions in order to support gay marriage and LGBT+ rights long before they were the political mainstream.

In 2003, he voted to abolish the homophobic Section 28 provision which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools. The following year, he was one of a small group of Tory MPs to defy the party line by backing the Labour government’s LGBT+ reforms. This is the man who donned a pink hat and proudly led a London Pride March in 2008.

Liz Truss would also, in theory, be expected to back the progressive course of action. She has delighted freedom fans since being in government, bringing a flavour of the neoliberal to the Cabinet table. But her apparent resistance when it comes to conversion therapy has been deeply disappointing. It remains unclear why it fell to an MP from another party, the Lib Dem Layla Moran, to force a parliamentary debate on the topic by tabling an early day motion.

Concern is growing at a troubling rate even on the Conservative benches. Crispin Blunt, the Tory chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights, wrote recently that he is “becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of actual progress since the announcement of the policy to ban this practice almost two years ago.”

Blunt is right to call out what seem to be “excuses for inaction” from the government on this issue. Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, has defended bringing back a physical parliament at this early stage in the lifting of coronavirus lockdown on the grounds that the government must be able to push through its legislative agenda. In which case, why does it seem so unwilling to do just that?

TheArticle: It’s time for tax cuts

It is absolutely imperative that the government does not undermine our post-coronavirus economic recovery before it has even begun through crippling tax rises.

This piece was first published on TheArticle.

In the latest addition to the Treasury’s wide range of crisis measures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that small firms will soon have access to quick and interest-free loans of up to £50,000. In times of emergency, it is entirely right that the government should turn on the spending taps in ways it never normally would to keep businesses afloat and prevent millions from slipping into poverty.

Eventually, though, the state will have to pay off its tab. There is still no magic money tree. The Centre for Policy Studies estimates that coronavirus will cost the UK a total of £246 billion. That could push government borrowing this year as high as £300 billion, roughly double the annual budget of the NHS.

Those costs cannot be met through public sector cuts. Even if anywhere near that amount of cash could be found sitting idle in the public purse, the memories of George Osborne’s economic programme remain fresh and the wounds still sting.

More pertinently, we are now a nation that assembles weekly to applaud nurses, doctors and care workers on our doorsteps. Our reliance on essential workers during this crisis has been at the forefront of the public consciousness, with government representatives touting their vital work at practically every one of the daily press briefings.

Right-wing newspapers known for their hostility now adorn their front pages with smiling pictures of NHS “heroes and angels”. The “Give NHS Heroes a Medal” campaign has the backing of all five living former Prime Ministers. Evidently, cuts to public services are not going to be politically feasible in the foreseeable future.

Inevitably, the focus then shifts to tax policy, which will form the crux of this next micro-era of economic debate. It is absolutely imperative that the government does not undermine our post-coronavirus economic recovery before it has even begun through crippling tax rises.

The temptation will be there. NHS staff will surely soon receive their long-overdue pay rise. Faces of big business have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Virgin’s Richard Branson begged for a government bailout, despite having billions in the bank. Tim Martin, the chairman of Wetherspoons, initially refused to pay his furloughed workers, telling them to get a job in Tesco instead.

It will therefore appear easy for the government to bump up corporation tax or the top rate of income tax by a few notches to take the edge off the huge borrowing costs and, it would seem, stay on the right side of public opinion. But this would be myopic and incredibly unwise.

The solution to the economic consequences of coronavirus is growth. Our economy will take a hit of unprecedented magnitude and the only solution is to think long term. Rather than hiking taxes, we should in fact be bringing them down in order to make Britain the hub of post-virus economic activity.

In a matter of months, the UK will finally leave the European Union in material terms. The Brexit transition period is due to come to an end in December, at which point dozens of new bilateral free trade agreements with countries across the world will come into force. Combined with a host of tax cuts, this will allow life to be breathed back into the British economy.

Raising taxes would be short-termist and destructive, an imprudent course of action for a government that expects to stay in power for at least the next decade. Public opinion makes this point even more pressing; despite the apparent incompetence of big business and the nation’s doubling down on its love for public service providers, the British people overwhelmingly believe that the government should cut taxes once lockdown is over.

In a recent Survation poll for the Adam Smith Institute, an astonishing 72 per cent of respondents said that the government should slash taxes in the coming months, with just 8 per cent opposing tax cuts. This view is especially pronounced among young people whose opinions, given the demographic circumstances, ought to be of the utmost importance for the Conservative party as it looks ahead to future elections.

The upshot is that, as we move into the recovery phase of the pandemic, an informed and sensible view of the economic situation must be at the forefront of policy generation. The government must be able to resist the temptation for a quick fix in the form of tax rises and equipped to look ahead to the long term.

Quite rightly, the government has so far relied on guidance from leading scientists when coming up with coronavirus policy. That comes in the form of SAGE, its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which advises on the health-related consequences of different policy approaches. It is now time for the establishment of a parallel Economic Advisory Group for Emergencies.

As the Adam Smith Institute report suggests, an EAGE would help coordinate responses to ongoing developments across departments from an economic perspective, in the same way that SAGE ensures the government is aware of all relevant health-related issues. In the next phase of the pandemic, it is vital that the government continues to listen to the experts.

TheArticle: When Corbyn loses the election it will unleash a storm on the left

Half the Labour Party is still stuck in the Brexit battles of 2016, while the other half is still fighting those of the 1980s.

This piece was first published on TheArticle.

In April 2017, the pollster John Curtice offered Theresa May’s Conservatives practically the only word of caution ahead of that year’s general election. Curtice saw difficulty for the Conservatives where the rest of us had failed to look. Now, in a startling break from his usual nuanced and sober commentary, he has slammed the Labour Party, branding its chances of winning a majority “frankly as close to zero as one can safely say it to be”.

For the third election in a row Scotland will determine the outcome in Westminster. Ever since the SNP avalanche of 2015, in which the ultimate Labour heartland was captured, a red Commons majority has never seemed within reach. Unless something very dramatic happens in the next four weeks, Labour will remain in opposition.

A further loss will lead inexorably to a leadership contest. And if the party finds itself not only in opposition, but with fewer MPs and also leaderless, then there will be a reckoning. Over the last four years, Corbyn’s allies have taken over the party’s institutions. An almighty battle for the soul of Labour has been fought between the centrist Blairite Remainers and the radical Corbynistas. It seems that — for the moment, at least — a compromise has been reached, where one side gets to argue for a People’s Vote as party policy, while the other promotes an unaccountably hard-line form of socialist economics.

Half the Labour Party is still stuck in the Brexit battles of 2016, while the other half is still fighting those of the 1980s. This immense political tug of war will come to a head when Corbyn is eventually toppled, and the remnants left behind when that fizzing ball of chaos finally subsides will determine Labour’s new political character. Will it opt for a Lib Dem-lite approach — centrist economics and hardline Europhilia — or will Labour double down on its hard left, progressive unionist ways?

Given the wave of support that swept Corbyn to the top of his party in 2015 — and kept him there in the face of a leadership challenge the following year — it is difficult to see how a prominent Remainer, such as Yvette Cooper, could take over. Things would become even harder for a moderate if a Boris Brexit appeared imminent and inevitable. If a Conservative government is returned this December, that will be the case.

That means the contenders to succeed Corbyn are those on the opposition front bench and, for that reason, the dividing lines of an election contest will not then be between the New Labourites and the hard left but something more subtle. We will probably witness clashes between candidates who pledge to continue their predecessor’s good and important work, and others who talk stirringly about Jeremy’s great contribution, but how now is the time for change (in this case, probably a move towards the centre ground).

There are other complications, not least the position of deputy leader, recently vacated by Tom Watson, who was far to Corbyn’s right. It is entirely possible that, as with Watson and Corbyn, Labour will find itself with a leader from one wing of the party and a deputy from the other.

In these extraordinary times the idea is even being floated that the Labour Party should adopt the Green party model of having two co-leaders. That would represent a determined commitment to not making a decision, and it would plunge the party into thrilling new depths of procrastination.

When Corbyn falls, Labour will face a number of options and none of them look any good. The British left is a large place, and Labour has failed to hold its ideological coalition together.

We are witnessing the calm before the leftist storm; an immense, era-defining realignment of our politics is coming.

1828: The UK’s high tuition fees are nothing to be ashamed of

Whatever the left might say, graduates are not in debt. Student loan repayments are structured as a progressive tax contribution, generously tailored to the needs of the individual.

This article was first published on 1828.

According to a recent report from the OECD, England’s higher education fees are the second most expensive in the developed world, beaten only by our cousins in the USA. Thanks to the overwhelming reductionism of the contemporary socialist’s economic worldview, Newton’s third law dictates that the British left must call loudly and frequently for the slashing, or even scrapping, of tuition fees.

The fallacious implication of this position is that higher fees make university more expensive for students, and that cutting those fees would therefore improve accessibility.

As fees climb, the final figure presented to students upon graduation as their “debt” becomes very large. And as such, more and more people are taken in by this convenient myth.

Besides anything else, on a fundamental level, high tuition fees allow for well-funded universities, which is a necessary precondition if ours are to remain world leaders.

As well as providing premium services which allow our graduates to become some of the most qualified and successful people in the world, British universities are supremely generous, offering a myriad of bursaries and scholarships which, from personal experience, enhance and enrich poorer students’ time at university beyond measure.

Unsurprisingly, whisking vast sums of money away from the higher education sector would profoundly undermine universities’ ability to do these things.

Of course, if swathes of our graduates were being financially maimed by overwhelming debts, that would be a cause for great concern however excellent those universities may be.

But if we were truly in the midst of a pandemic in which entire cohorts of people in their twenties suddenly found themselves crushed under the weight of tens of thousands of pounds of debt, our economy would have stalled long ago.

It is concerning in the extreme that the left continues to peddle such an openly disingenuous position.

Then again, the bar is low. The shadow chancellor, for instance, insists that the nationalisation of various industries would be completely free: “When we purchase something, that comes onto our books. It’s neutral. That becomes an asset that we own,” he says, straight-faced, going on to lampoon Andrew Marr for “working on the basis that there is a cost”.

Whatever Labour might say, graduates are not in debt. Student loan repayments are structured as a progressive tax contribution, generously tailored to the needs of the individual.

Neoliberalism goes hand in hand with social mobility, so liberty lovers should have no issue with supporting the current fee model.

Currently, the salary threshold at which repayment begins is very high, sitting at £25,725. That figure will increase in April 2020, as it does annually, rising by £850.

Those who struggle to get by on their earnings are under no obligation to pay for their education, unless their financial situation improves significantly. For perspective, you start paying income tax at just £12,500.

Students do not, on the whole, pay £9,250 per year for their higher education, even though that is the advertised fee of the vast majority of higher education courses in the UK. Only the richest graduates may eventually end up repaying their loans in full. The rest of us do not pay back a penny until we’re financially secure and, even then, the repayments are extremely modest.

Even once your salary passes the high and ever-growing threshold, the proportion of your income which is ringfenced for paying for your higher education is exceedingly small, to the point of being negligible.

This is because just nine per cent of what you earn above the threshold is paid back. A graduate earning £1 above the threshold would be liable to repay nine pence each year. A graduate earning £30,000 would repay just £385 per year.

The repayment model is extremely considerate of the individual’s circumstances. If your earnings drop, your contributions will fall accordingly.

If some of the loan remains unpaid after thirty years, which is the case most of the time, your obligations are wiped, and the government foots the bill (in addition to immense quantities of direct state funding to universities, accounting for over a quarter of their income).

There is no sense in which the student loan repayment structure could hamstring graduates or bring about financial hardship of any kind. The bandying about of galactic figures in discussions of higher education policy betrays the fact that the vast majority of the cost of higher education is covered by the state.

Government estimates predict that fewer than one in three current undergraduates will pay back their loans in full – it will, of course, be the richest third who shoulder that burden.

Why, then, is the prevailing narrative one of crippling debt and an austere state refusing to fork out for its young people’s university education? Why is student finance talked of in a manner that is so far detached from the truth? The problem here is a political one. Other more nuanced approaches than simply slashing the headline fees figure are considerably more efficient, but much less sexy.

Abolishing maintenance loans and replacing them with the return of maintenance grants is an alternative solution. This way, the government would be investing in higher education in a way that does not funnel the new cash directly into the pockets of the richest graduates.

The benefits of this policy would be minute in relation to the funds that would be required to implement it. The government would be getting appalling value for money on its investments because the billions of pounds that would be required would simply reduce graduates’ average “debt” from around £50,000 to roughly £30,000.

The crux remains constant: this saving would primarily benefit those who pay off their loan quickest – that is, the richest graduates. The same is true of cutting interest rates.

Because of the acres of leeway offered by the repayment model, the material benefit felt by graduates of slicing off a small portion of the overall figure would be trivial.

In an ideal world, the government should seek to remove the cap on fees altogether, or at least raise it enough such that universities have enough wiggle room to compete properly among themselves. This would allow students to seek out a more tailored higher education career than is currently possible, offering a great deal more choice to prospective undergraduates.

Oxbridge would likely be unseated from its centuries-long reign at the top of our league tables as competition in the industry exploded, allowing British universities to reverse the slow but disquieting trend of their slipping down international league tables.

Crucially, raising or lifting the cap on fees would not increase graduates’ financial obligations. They would still only pay back that very slim portion of their income each year, and the books would still be cleared after thirty years. There would be no extra financial strain placed on students, but our universities would, at long last, find themselves free to carve out their own identity and test the limits of their potential.

Such a move appears out of reach for the foreseeable future because, despite its various benefits and economic harmlessness, it would be intensely vulnerable to caricature from the left as a policy that makes university education more costly for the poorest students, thanks to the alarming and misleading headline figures that it would inevitably produce.

This is not to say that the government shouldn’t seek to invest in or reform higher education. Trying to redistribute funds directly to students, though, is an ineffective way of going about it.

Thanks to the under-appreciated benefits of the current system, students are already in the best position that could reasonably be expected.

If polling indicates that the Department for Education is an electorally helpful place to focus and there happen to be a couple of billion pounds lying around in a Whitehall biscuit tin, the government would do well to consider investing in the research institutes housed within universities in order to make Britain the undisputed home of cutting-edge research.

This is an area in which increased state funding would be gratefully received and put to phenomenal use. Britain is at the forefront of pioneering research efforts, but, if handled poorly, the aftermath of Brexit could pose a threat to our institutions’ relationships with other research hubs and networks around the world.

Britain is in a strong position to propel itself to the front line of booming research areas like AI and make itself a leading light in the great innovative strides of the coming decades. But this misleading and regressive talk of the apparent need to cut tuition fees is distracting from it, to our own substantial detriment.

1828: The time to confront the housing crisis is now

Far from ham-fisted interventionism, the housing market is crying out for liberation from overbearing planning regulations.

This article was first published on 1828.

Since 2010, the UK’s population has risen by well over three million people. Yet we’ve been so bad at housebuilding that the last time we built fewer houses over the same period was when we were fighting the second world war.

The number of new homes being built has been on a consistent downward trend, falling every decade for the last half a century, despite continued population growth. In that light, it’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves in an unprecedented housing crisis.

In terms of real-life significance for most people, the housing crisis dwarfs almost every other issue, including Brexit. It is perhaps the most important political issue we face, yet it remains woefully under-discussed and, on a policy level, broadly unaddressed.

In the 1960s, we succeeded in building around 3.6 million new homes. So far this decade, we have managed a measly 1.1 million. Just twenty years ago, around ten per cent of 30-year-olds lived in private rented accommodation. That figure has now leapt to 40 per cent. In 1991, two-thirds of 25-34-year-olds owned their own home. As of 2016, just 38 per cent have managed to buy property.

There is no enigmatic factor to this crisis or its causes. We know exactly what is driving these effects. There is a near-universal consensus among economists that our housing market faces a supply-side problem.

Quite simply, we are not building anywhere near the levels we need to be. The result is that the average UK home now costs eight times the average wage. Across London and the South East, that figure rises to fifteen times.

The solutions to the housing crisis are no mystery either. We know exactly what we have to do. Part of the problem is that the discourse on this subject is being stifled by the likes of Sadiq Khan, who uses the issue as a profoundly unsubtle Trojan horse for the very worst kind of economic authoritarianism.

The London mayor has taken to calling for rent controls, even though it is nigh on impossible to find a policy that has failed more comprehensively and convincingly every time it has been tried. It has never worked anywhere.

Far from ham-fisted interventionism, the housing market simply needs a reboot. It is crying out for liberation from overbearing planning regulations.

There are, of course, various other steps that could be taken to lighten the burden significantly, such as slashing stamp duty or even scrapping it altogether, to relieve much of the pressure currently faced by first-time buyers in particular.

But liberalising the planning system is also necessary to make it easier for investors to build affordable homes in large quantities. The sheer volume of red tape faced by people who would otherwise be queuing up to pour their money into Britain’s housing market is directly inhibiting progress in this area.

Because, inescapably, the main thrust of any plan to finally address the crisis has to be the building of more homes. That costs money, but it is hard to see how any government could get better value for its cash in any comparable policy area. The incentives for the government to tackle this issue are immense and multi-faceted.

First of all, it would give young people like myself a realistic chance of owning their own home one day. At the moment, that feels very much like a pipe dream, especially in London. There is no reason for that to be the case. We can build new homes more cheaply and efficiently than ever before. It is simply a matter of rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it.

Perhaps the most obvious reason why this issue deserves more attention from those in government is the gold mine of electoral potential that housing brings with it.

It is a peerless vote winner. From 2015-17, the proportion of 30-39-year-olds, sometimes known as “generation rent”, who voted Labour jumped from 34 to 55 per cent. Polling strongly suggests that housing has been catapulted to the top of this generation’s political priorities, beating even the NHS.

Whichever party takes note of this fact soonest and begins to give the housing crisis the attention it so clearly deserves will, before long, find themselves on the receiving end of a cataclysmic electoral boost.

Naturally, as a Conservative, I sincerely hope that it is the current government that takes this opportunity first. There is, however, no reason why Labour, or, indeed, anyone else, could not plug the necessary funds into housing and go on to reap the electoral rewards of that investment from the youth vote in particular.

The green belt is, incontrovertibly, one of the first areas for reform. The categorisation in itself is profoundly unhelpful. The phrase alone invokes idyllic mental images of vast swathes of green and pleasant land when in reality, much of it is the colour of the BBC weather map.

Hundreds of green belt sites are, in fact, not green at all, and are instead ripe for development. Vast numbers of abandoned garages, warehouses, and various other ugly and useless things occupy plots of land designated as green belt, especially in and around London.

Building on it, therefore, does not necessarily involve heavy machinery tearing apart hilly fields and dumping great tower blocks in their place. There is easily enough space for a million new homes in the capital alone on these kinds of sites, including brownfield land, which would go an extremely long way towards making the vast cost of living in London manageable for the young and ambitious.

Of course, building on the green belt is just one part of the solution. There are a wealth of underexplored proposals swilling around in the public domain.

Take, for instance, this year’s report from the Adam Smith Institute on micro-homes for young professionals, allowing much better usage of prime real estate in key locations.

And housing need not be a partisan issue. It is a golden opportunity to build bridges across the political divide.

Last year, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh wrote movingly on this site about the urgency of the housing crisis. As she said, there is no reason why 80,000 families, including 123,000 children, should find themselves forced to seek out nightly paid temporary accommodation in 21st-century Britain. Unless radical action is taken very soon, this crisis will worsen exponentially.

It is coming to a head much faster than we are confronting it, even though there is very little stopping us. The time to start doing something about it is now.

Prospect: Conservative Remainers must swallow their pride and back Boris – that’s the only way to get what they want

Tories who would rather avoid both No Deal and Revoke must turn a blind eye to Boris’s bellowing and Cummings’s evil stares and throw their support behind this government.

This article was first published in Prospect Magazine.

Barely three months ago, swathes of loyal Conservative voters angrily threw their support behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the grand protest that was the European elections. Since then, much has changed in Tory land; thanks to its new Vote Leave leadership, the party has shunted away from Remain and moved markedly towards the Leave end of the Brexit spectrum.

As a result, the Brexit Party’s poll numbers have plummeted. Boris Johnson is now widely viewed as the right person to take us out of the EU in a way that Theresa May never was. The Conservative rebels are no longer the Brexiteer ERG crew. Now, the maverick outsiders are the Remainers, their adamant opposition to No Deal setting them at odds with the aggressively enforced government position.

As it stands, the Conservative Party is much more at risk of losing votes to the single-issue Liberal Democrats than Nigel Farage. Disaffected Remain-leaning Tory voters who do not identify with the nationalistic bravado being violently broadcasted by the Brexiteers in government are more likely than ever before to feel out of place in their own party, alienated by their own Prime Minister.

This is entirely understandable. Dominic Cummings has been reeling off every trick in the book in his concerted attempt to convince the world that the British government is, at long last, truly serious about Brexit.

He has been in Downing Street a mere few weeks—most of which time, Parliament has been in recess—and he has already seized a no-confidence vote from the Opposition’s armoury, threatened to hold an election to force through No Deal, and even promised to trash the government’s majority by booting disobedient MPs out of the party. It should be hardly surprising, then, that Remain-leaning Tories are somewhat reticent about giving this government a stonking mandate in any impending general election.

Because of the comparably soft touch of the last government, being a mildly Europhilic Conservative has been relatively easy for much of the last three years. The Gauke-ward squad supported Theresa May and voted for her deal three times while only the few fringe People’s Voters took a strong enough Remain position to divulge from the party line.

Now, though, moderate Remainers—of whom there are many in the Tory Party—are having their principles tested in the extreme. Are they really willing to die on the Brexit hill?

The bulk of the Conservative Remainers are not, in fact, Remainers, but opponents of No Deal. It is the new government’s embracing of No Deal bluster that they find troubling. Even as a lifelong Eurosceptic and unrelenting Leave supporter, I empathise profoundly with this dilemma. If it came to it, and it were my trembling hand hovering over the big red button, I would be inclined to revoke Article 50, rather than see us tumble out of Europe without a deal. Yet, I maintain my support for the government.

A non-negligible chunk of Boris backers are profoundly sceptical of No Deal, but have faith that all the electoral bombast and patriotic guff about pork pies is a mere negotiating ploy. This government is still working towards what both Tory Remainers and the Vote Leave crew agree is the optimal outcome: a deal. But for the scheme to work, the world has to believe that the mop-haired mayor and his demented blogging minion are just about bonkers enough to follow through on their threats.

A common trope throughout the ongoing crisis that is Brexit—constitutional, existential and otherwise—is that of a Leave-voting population and its representation by a pro-Remain Parliament. This is still the case; in fact, thanks to the various newly independent members, the House of Commons is arguably more strongly in favour of Remain than it has been at any point since that fateful election day in 2017.

Now, though, for added complexity, perched precariously on top of the Leave electorate and the Remain Parliament like a poorly assembled wedding cake is a Vote Leave government. Despite the sheer volume of its rhetorical gusto, the government is caught between a rock and a hard place; it cannot please the Leavers and Remainers at once, even though it is accountable to them both.

It is for that reason that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings know better than anyone else that they must obtain a Brexit deal. The Prime Minister’s leadership campaign was founded on the notion of uniting the country, healing divisions and bringing us together once more. He has no intention of executing a divisive, regressive Farage Brexit.

As onerous as it may seem, that majority of Tories who would rather avoid both No Deal and Revoke must swallow their pride, turn a blind eye to Boris’s bellowing and Cummings’s evil stares and throw their support behind this government. We all want a deal, and Boris is the only person who can deliver it.