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Failure to solve housing crisis will threaten UK democracy, says Michael Gove

Michael Gove has warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism (PA)
Michael Gove has warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism (PA)

Michael Gove has warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism.

The Housing Secretary said a failure by the Government to tackle the housing crisis could endanger democracy, as well as the Conservatives’ chances at the general election.

In an interview with The Times, he said the traditional route for young people to work hard and get on the housing ladder had gone.

“It’s a barrier to young people feeling that democracy and capitalism are working for them,” the Cabinet minister said.

“It’s simply harder for us to make that case if people who’ve got broadly ‘small c’ conservative values, or actually no particular political agenda at all, feel that they’re being shut out.”

He continued: “If people think that markets are rigged and a democracy isn’t listening to them, then you get — and this is the worrying thing to me — an increasing number of young people saying, ‘I don’t believe in democracy, I don’t believe in markets.’

“And you can see that in polling, with people saying, ‘I just want someone to fix this. I’d be prepared to have an authoritarian leader who would just fix this,’ and that is a danger.”

The Tory MP for Surrey Heath is urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to put young voters at the heart of the party manifesto, and lobbying Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the March 6 Budget to make a bold offer on housing.

“We’ve got to take those moments and show people that we understand where their concerns are deepest and use those moments particularly to say, ‘We know that housing exemplifies many of your frustrations. We’re dealing with it.’”

Mr Gove was optimistic about the party’s ability to improve its dismal standing among young voters before a national vote expected in the autumn.

He said: “Campaigns make a difference, arguments making a good case matter. So there are people who are saying now, ‘Oh, it’s impossible,’ and so on. ‘Look at this trend, look at these figures.’ Nonsense. If you want to, it is possible.”

The senior Conservative will this week detail planning reforms aimed at regenerating inner-city brownfield sites.

“There’ll be a general presumption that if you are building or converting a property in a brownfield location, that planning permission should be granted automatically,” he told the newspaper, adding that a “nimby” council will not be able to block a developer under the plans.

Mr Sunak last year dropped compulsory housing targets to ward off a potential backbench Tory rebellion.

He chose instead to make the Conservative manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year in England advisory after construction repeatedly fell short.

The Prime Minister is under intense pressure as he has failed to close the opinion poll gap of more than 20 points with Labour, and has faced calls from some in his party to move aside or risk an electoral massacre.

He also faces a tough by-election challenge this week in Wellingborough and Kingswood, while official figures may spell gloom for his pledge to grow the economy.

Mr Gove denied being in a Tory WhatsApp group called “Evil Plotters” and being part of a group seeking to remove Mr Sunak.