‘Netflix and chill’ - Norfolk MP points to film giant as strategy for Tories to take on ‘nimbys’ and ‘deliver what people want’ on housing
PUBLISHED: 19:00 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:51 08 February 2019
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The Conservative Party must be ready to take on “nimby” home-owners to get more houses built and drive prices down, South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss has said.
Ms Truss called for liberalisation of “rigid” planning rules to make it harder for developments to be blocked by existing home-owners, who she described as “the worst vested interest we’ve got”.
She identified the shortage of affordable housing for young people as a key issue driving voters into the arms of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour which Tories must tackle if they are to spread their appeal to new parts of the country.
Speaking to the Resolution Foundation think tank in London, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said this year’s Spending Review - setting out budgets for 2020-23 - is an opportunity for the Conservatives to set out a “popular free market agenda”.
She said the party should take a cue from market-leading brands like Aldi and Netflix, which “deliver what people want, when they want it at a price that they want”.
She added that it should cut back on “virtue-signalling” policies, warning that voters “resent being told how big their pizza should be or how much alcohol they should drink per week”.
In an attack on the “nanny state”, she said: “At the moment we have got an increasing quangocracy that does seem to be prepared to say those things.”
Joking that she was not calling on her party to adopt a strategy of “Netflix and chill”, Ms Truss said Tories must take a “ruthless” approach to stripping back wasteful spending and tearing down barriers to getting on in life.
These include barriers preventing state school pupils getting into Oxbridge, difficulties female entrepreneurs experience in securing finance, and obstacles to building affordable housing for young people.
High house prices were among factors which had led to a 25pc drop in people moving to find work over the last 15 years, said Ms Truss, citing studies which suggested workers were missing out on £2,000 of salary as a result.
Conservatives must be “prepared to take on vested interests”, including “those who want to protect their existing privileges”, she said.
She added: “The worst vested interest we’ve got is existing home-owners who block development. I think that is the biggest challenge we face - how are we going to reform the system when there’s a fundamental anti-development bias in our country?”
Ms Truss blamed “rigid planning rules” for “house prices that are out of reach of many, many people”.
“We do have to be prepared to take on those who don’t want a house built in the field next to them,” she said.
“The alternative is getting a public who ... feel like the housing market is not responding to their demand, not because they are dyed-in-the-wool socialists but because they are simply frustrated. I think there’s a danger that people will support the Labour Party because they are so frustrated about the situation.”
She hailed liberal planning regimes in Tokyo, Vancouver and Germany which had cut back on bureaucracy and resulted in lower house prices.
Ms Truss said Tories need to create an alliance of “industrial Britain, enterprise Britain and rural Britain”, identifying Labour-held seats in Bassetlaw, Bolton and Bolsover as the kind of areas where the party needs to build support.
People in communities like these would respond to a Conservative Party following the US mantra of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and offering them control of their own lives and the opportunity to get on, she said.
There is an opportunity for Tories to appeal to voters who resent the “vortex of victimhood” offered by Labour and the idea of choices being made on their behalf, she said.
“Our opportunity is to lay out policies which, in the words of the American founding fathers, suggest life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Ms Truss.
“I think if we advocate a popular free-market agenda, we can win over those parts of the country, we can drive up economic growth, we can create prosperity and give people a greater feeling of control over their own destiny and a greater feeling of pride in their country, their area and themselves.”