You could smell the hypocrisy over housebuilding seeping out of the Commons today, and it was equally smelly on both sides of the House. First off the marks to attack during PMQs was Sir Keir Starmer who went for Rishi Sunak over his failure to meet his government’s housing target and “shuttering the dream” for those who long to own their own home. 

But Starmer’s killer line was attacking the government’s hypocrisy over how party activists are now actively siding with Nimbys and attacking plans to meet the target. This is what he said: “His party spent thousands of pounds on adverts, attacking plans to build 300,000 new homes a year. At the same time, his housing minister says it’s Tory party policy to build 300,000 new homes a year.” 

Touché. The Labour leader was referring to the latest attack adverts being distributed by local Conservatives campaigning in Uxbridge and South Ruislip ahead of the by-election triggered by Boris Johnson’s departure. 

In the most extraordinary volte-face over Conservative housing policy, the ads feature a picture of Keir Starmer manning a concrete mixer claiming he is going to carpet the green belt with houses, with the words: “Labour will build on green belt, says Starmer.” Tory activists in the two other by-elections coming up on July 20 in Somerset and Frome (David Warburton) and Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) are using ads to side with those objecting to new housing developments in their districts. 

To big cheers from the Labour benches, Starmer was able to add – with impunity – that: “At least the Tories are not claiming to be the party of home ownership — because we are!”

Not to be outdone on the levels of hypocrisy, Sunak hit back – to Tory cheers this time – with his own attack line. Pointing out that while some Labour figures do want to build more, others don’t: “Unfortunately for him [Starmer], the shadow deputy prime minister, shadow minister for women, shadow health, justice, defence, business, Northern Ireland and Scotland ministers are all united against more housebuilding in their areas!?

Touché again. The Prime Minister, himself criticising Starmer for “concreting over the green belt,” added: “I have to say to them though, Mr Speaker, they don’t have to worry too much because he’s never actually kept a promise he’s made!”

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