In their latest electoral move the Labour Party have pledged to cap rents in the private sector. Such a change would sound good to most people, until it becomes apparent that Labour are not talking about genuine rent control, but rent control during three-year contracts. The two are significantly different.
Furthermore it is clear that rent control alone will not ‘solve’ the housing crisis, for that we need to build more homes. Labours’ ‘target’ is to build 200,000 in the last year of a new government. But it is estimated we need 250,000 homes per year just to keep pace with new households – let alone deal with the backlog.
But while the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) support the demands of Unite the union’s “Housing Workers Manifesto” –which calls for a massive investment in a mass programme of council housing building and refurbishment — ones mind boggles about what type of so-called “affordable” homes the Labour Party are planning on building here in Leicester.
I say this because multiple home-owner and former Labour Party national executive member, Keith Vaz, has displayed quite a taste for high-quality housing in recent years. Indeed, in 2011 it was revealed in the national press that an elite housing development in India had included Mr Vaz’s personal endorsement in their silken-sheeted brochure.
“Designed to meticulous standards and conceptualised around the desires of society’s top echelon, Eshta is a luxury development built on dreams” explains the brochure. This exclusive development in Kerala, southern India – so the brochure explained – had been “conceived as a haven of luxury and decadence” and as an “ode to exquisite living.” Apparently, “Here the cream of society will put up their feet and create a community that others can only emulate.”
That a Labour politician would allow his name to promote such inequality is astounding, especially one based in the socialist state of Kerala: promoting a housing complex that boasts of providing a butler service, “Reserved for the privileged few.” This is just one of the many reasons why I am standing against Mr Vaz in the General Election.
Other celebrity endorsers of this monument to housing decadence included Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan; the latter of whom’s similarly famous son created a Bollywood spectacle the other weekend in Leicester when he endorsed Keith Vaz’s electoral campaign.
Incidentally both of the millionaire Bollywood stars who leant their name to the Eshta housing project for the “privileged few” are international patrons of Keith Vaz’s very own healthcare charity, Silver Star Diabetes. A charity which Mr Vaz founded in 2007, soon after he discovered he had diabetes, so that he might raise awareness of the serious damage caused by this medical condition.
To get a gauge of where Mr Vaz’s political interests currently lie we might observe that since January 2014 he has managed to get nine stories about the crisis of diabetes into the Leicester Mercury, our city’s local newspaper. While the number of stories published during the same time-frame relating to his commitment to fighting to help solve our city’s urgent housing crisis are none.
Ironically the only property related story printed during this time in the Mercury that featured Mr Vaz was one that concerned his support for local landlords and traders who had illegally converted a series of industrial units into shops.
This is not to say that Keith Vaz’s stories about diabetes are not important, but arguably these concerns might be better taken up by his arguing within the Labour Party that all corporate profiteering should be driven out of the NHS. Kicking all corporations out of the NHS is however something that Labour are only partially committed to doing — which is not surprising given the critical role that our last Labour Government played in promoting schemes that invited corporations into our NHS, like through the notorious Private Finance Initiatives (PFI schemes) that are crippling the NHS to this day.
For example, on the issue of diabetes: cost-cutting within the NHS has led to a tragic situation where people “with diabetes are facing serious illness because the number of blood test strips available on the NHS are being rationed to cut costs.” Or consider another article written in May 2011, which pointed out how:
“The number of diabetic specialist nurse (DSN) posts unfilled across the [NHS] has doubled within a year. A survey of 385 hospital trusts and primary care trusts (PCTs) by Diabetes UK found that 218 jobs were vacant last year, even though the number of people with diabetes is rising by 150,000 a year. … The research also reveals that the proportion of DSN posts lying unfilled because of cost-saving programmes had risen to 43% – up from 34% in 2009.”
Few if any of these sort of problems will be addressed by a Labour Government, and they will certainly not be overcome by Keith Vaz’s intense commitment to his diabetes charity. Only the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and the Green Party are fighting for a fully publicly owned NHS. Furthermore, only TUSC rejects the lie of austerity and is prepared to go after the nearly £120 billion a year that the super-rich fail to pay in tax, which will help us pay for the type of health service that the British people truly deserve.