Nandy accuses Long-Bailey of ‘manufacturing division’ in Labour leadership bid

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Lisa Nandy has accused Labour leadership rival Rebecca Long-Bailey of an “attempt to manufacture division where there is none” over a call to back a council house “building boom”.

Ms Long-Bailey was on Friday urging her rivals to back her commitment to build hundreds of thousands of social homes ahead of voting opening after the weekend.

Sir Keir Starmer has already backed a large-scale building programme and Ms Nandy went on to criticise their opponent over the challenge.

Rebecca Long-Bailey was calling for the building of hundreds of thousands of council homes (Jacob King/PA)

Shadow business secretary Ms Long-Bailey was to call on the other contenders to back her “aspirational socialist” building pledge at a rally in Peterborough on Friday, her campaign team said.

She was expected to tell the crowd she would “proudly argue” for the building of more council homes if she succeeds Jeremy Corbyn.

“If we want to lay the foundations of aspirational socialism by fixing the housing system from top to bottom, we’ve got to start with a council house building boom,” she was to say.

But, ahead of the speech, Ms Nandy said: “This is an attempt to manufacture division where there is none. A decent, affordable home is a human right.

“As Labour leader I would maintain our commitment to a programme of mass council house building and ensuring secure, affordable tenancies for renters.”

The Wigan MP said she backed the last manifesto’s commitment to build 150,000 new council and social homes per year within five years.

But she added: “We need to go further than the manifesto, with a plan to tackle the overheated housing market in London and big cities to balance the economy.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir had already said a “new generation of council and social homes in every community” was essential to fixing the housing crisis.

Labour leadership candidate Sir Keir Starmer has also backed a major house building programme (Jane Barlow/PA)

And he signalled he was backing the last manifesto’s housing commitments in winning the backing of the Labour Housing Group affiliated to the party.

At the rally, Ms Long-Bailey was expected to lament how council waiting lists have “soared” while home ownership has become a “distant dream for most young people”.

“And it’s not just private tenants who are being ripped off by sky-high rents, we all are,” she was set to add.

“Because there aren’t enough council homes, private landlords pocket around £10 billion per year in housing benefit.

“We could do so much more with that money, like support dignity in old age with free, universal personal care for the over-65s.”

She is expected to say that it is possible for councils to build “desirable, actually pretty swanky” homes, pointing towards Salford in her constituency.

There the council has embarked on a programme of providing new homes which have been welcomed by the local press as “luxurious”.

Labour members and eligible supporters will begin voting for the new leader and deputy on Monday, with the result to be announced on April 4.