Paul Foot

Falling flats ruin
Labour’s building boast

(23 November 1968)

From Socialist Worker, No. 98, 23 November 1968, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

HOUSING MINISTER Anthony Greenwood refused to go on television to discuss the collapse of flats at Ronan Point, but he was happy to appear on BBC-2 and drool on about Christianity and Cathy Come Home.

In the course of his appearance, Mr. Greenwood reminded his audience approximately seven times that Labour had built more houses in the last three years than at any other time in British history.

In fact, although Greenwood himself specifically abandoned his pledge for 500,000 houses by 1970 last January, it is still the proud boast of Transport House that despite squeezes and recession and high interest rates, marginally more houses have been built under Labour than under the Tories.

The truth is that Greenwood and his henchmen are absolutely terrified by what happened at Ronan Point – not because they fear another block might fall down but because the clamour for repairs and strengthening could damage their aims to build more houses.

A glance at the statistics shows that it is in high flats that Labour has managed to increase the number of dwellings most substantially. The fantastic speed with which these gerry-built blocks can be erected, and the large number of dwellings they incorporate is bound to give a great boost to house-building figures.

Evacuation of all the GLC’s unsafe system-built blocks, however, may be followed in other parts of the country.

Building resources previously devoted to housebuilding will have to be diverted to complicated, lengthy repair-work. Moreover, the new blocks that are erected will take longer – because of the new safety requirements.

In other words the ‘new technology’ which the government pioneered in housebuilding lies in ruins. It was based on a craze for numbers – regardless of safety or size.

Last updated on 22 October 2020