The Conservative government, bereft of political ideas, has not only appropriated current Labour policies but also those of the 1945 Labour government – the greatest historical U-turn ever.

The 1945 Labour government is famous, or infamous for some, for a programme of nationalisation, including essential services such as gas, electricity and the railways, all later privatised by Conservative governments, even water a public utility prior to 1945.

One less known Labour nationalisation was that of development land. In 1947, the Town and Country Planning Acts nationalised development rights requiring all landowners to obtain planning permission to develop land. This nationalisation legislation has never been overturned.

However, the Acts assumed that any “development value”, now termed “hope value”, resulting from planning permission belonged to the state and not the landowner who would receive just the “use value” of the land, essentially its agricultural value. Any increase in the value of the land after a grant of planning permission was taxed at 100% by the Labour government making it much easier to build much-needed public housing after the war. The Central Land Board set up under the Acts could compulsorily purchase land at its use value. That was overturned: the 1951 Conservative government abolished the development tax and also the compulsory acquisition of land at its use value.

Since then, various attempts have been made to recover some of the inflated price of land, the latest through “planning obligations” whereby developers make certain provisions such as a new access road or some affordable housing. But this captures very little of inflated development value. And here we come to the greatest historical U-turn ever.

The Conservative government has turned the clock back to 1945 by amending the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to permit local authorities to compulsorily acquire land at its use value. But local authorities have to obtain the secretary of state’s permission first which allows landholders to lobby government, causes delay and sidelines local government. Not so Labour which has signalled its intention to give local authorities the above rights without jumping through any hoops. So, if you want the “real deal” vote Labour. The spectre of 1945 is haunting the Conservative government which is nationalising key parts of the privatised National Grid to overcome the long delays in connecting renewable energy, the railways are de facto nationalised already, the electricity supplier Bulb was temporarily taken into public control and Thames Water barely managed to escape special administration – for now. The public want the lot under public control: over two thirds of the public support the nationalisation of rail, energy, water and the Royal Mail. 1945 – “Back to the future!”