Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where the Other Half Lives

My review of Sarah Glynn's new book is up on the New Statesman's website here.

"In some respects, it's the most important statistic in modern Britain. In 1914, ten per cent of Britain's housing stock was owner-occupied: the figure now is around 72 per cent. During a century in which it fought two world wars, dismantled an empire and built a welfare state, Britain quietly transformed itself from a nation of tenants into a nation where the majority are homeowners. The massive impact that this has had on the social landscape of the country is often neglected, and yet it is key to understanding contemporary politics. Thatcher's sale of council houses under the right-to-buy scheme finally tilted the electoral balance in favour of the homeowner, and the imperative to pander to the interests of an owner-occupying 'middle England' that is inherently conservative has largely defined the policy direction of New Labour. Seamlessly, the property-owning democracy of the Thatcher years segued into Blair's stakeholder society. Homeownership has become a precondition of citizenship, while those without property are increasingly disenfranchised."

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