Dangerous rent controls

To let sign
To let sign

Further evidence is emerging of how Labour would be far more radical in office than its manifesto suggests. On Thursday night’s Question Time Leaders’ Special, Sir Keir Starmer indicated that he would ban landlords from accepting the highest offer from tenants during a back-and-forth “bidding war”, claiming that this was putting up rents.

This may not be the full-fat rent controls Scotland has introduced to such disastrous effect. But it is still economically illiterate. The main consequence could be to encourage landlords to require higher initial bids from tenants. If they cannot get the returns they need, more buy-to-let investors could also leave the market, pushing up rents further. In some parts of the UK, rents have indeed become too expensive. But the right response to this would be to ensure that more property is available, not less, and to reduce demand by bringing net migration under control.

That Labour instead seems willing to launch an assault on landlords is indicative of a party poisoned by envy, particularly against the older generation. Many landlords are not wealthy, but have acquired buy-to-let property to boost their incomes, including in retirement. Why should they be prevented from using their assets as they see fit?

When interventions like the one Sir Keir has suggested inevitably fail, the Left tends to double down on its mistakes and impose even more damaging restrictions. That is one of the great dangers of a Labour government, especially when led by a self-confessed socialist like Sir Keir. What other nasty surprises does he have planned for Britain?