Employment is falling, inflation rising, the pound collapsing, business confidence evaporating, the union’s striking and the banks busting. It’s so bad that the average price of a house in London has plummeted to £300,000. Three hundred thousand pounds! Think of that. And when you have thought about it you will realise that £300,000 is still way beyond the means of vast numbers of Londoners.
You would still need an income – or joint income – of around £100,000 before you could think of taking out a sensible mortgage on an ordinary London home.
If you can find a finance house to lend you the money, you will then find that, contrary to what you’ve read in the papers, the cost housing has not come down. Mortgage rates are far higher than a year ago. Deposits are larger and rents are up too.
We have a property industry in crisis at the same time as housing remains hugely expensive. Where’s the credit crunch dividend? Where’s the cheap property for all those shut out in the boom years?
Contacts in Whitehall were telling me in the summer that Brown was going to sort out the mess by waiting for the market to hit the floor then buying up stock. As it is, he has been panicked into telling councils and housing associations to help families facing repossession now when prices have fallen by just 10 per cent. He’s loading the taxpayer with negative equity because the International Monetary Fund and most other reputable economists predict that prices will fall by 30 per cent – maybe more.
Meanwhile his stamp duty holiday on homes costing £175,000 or less will help some Londoners – but not that many because flats costing £175,000 or less in London remain rarer than a sunny, summer’s day.
He could have done so much more. Although media attention has concentrated on the troubles of banking, the state of the big building firms is almost as serious. If they go under, it will take years before alternatives grow up able to build the new homes the south east needs if we are to avoid yet more bubble markets.
The industry might have been saved. The young couples priced out of the market and the 1.6 million stuck on council house waiting lists might have been helped, and we might have become a saner country where people didn’t imagine they could make their fortune in property speculation.
Adam Sampson, of the housing charity Shelter, told me that Brown needed to “ride out the storm, keep the housing industry going and begin building homes for the future”.
Brown can’t because he wasted so much money in the good years he left next to nothing in reserve for when hard times came. This is why young readers in good jobs still can’t afford a decent home. And, if there’s anyone left who cares, it is also why Brown will lead Labour to a landslide defeat.
THE SNIGGERS about Sarah Palin from well-heeled Democrats can be heard from across the Atlantic. A working-class woman, with one unmarried child pregnant, another child disabled, a third fighting in Iraq and a husband who is a union man, is a preposterous figure to them. They should be careful. They come from a political class where sex is safe and lives orderly. Most Americans don’t, and Palin’s family troubles will seem normal to many voters.
Wisely, Obama is ordering his supporters to cool it. I was going to say that he should tell them to attack Palin’s inexperience instead, but then she has more experience of public administration than he has. Her crackpot creationism seems a plump target too, but then Obama spent 20 years praying with a demagogic pastor who propagated racist conspiracy theories.
The smart move is to ignore her. When a smooth man is confronted by a tough woman, the safest option is to steer well clear.
TO THE Bloomsbury Theatre to see an adaptation of The Tiger who came to Tea and salute the Beatrix Potter of our day. J.K. Rowling may go the way of Enid Blyton, but Judith Kerr, the refugee who escaped to London from Nazism, has already passed the test of time. The Tiger who Came to Tea was first published in 1968 and the first Mogg book in 1970. If you didn’t have them read to you when you were a child, I can guarantee that you will read them to your children.
I HAVE consulted Debrett’s and ransacked my Barbara Cartlands. Nowhere can I discover what a girl is meant to do while she waits for her prince to propose? Once, hanging around and looking pretty would have been enough. The modern woman is meant to have more about her, however, and the press has branded Kate Middleton as Waity Katy, a lethargic layabout. So she’s gone out and got a job “compiling and editing catalogues”. She didn’t have to go very far, admittedly, as she is editing the catalogues of her parents’ mail order company. If she messes up, they won’t fire her but cut her dress allowance. For the life of me, I can’t see what’s wrong with hanging around and looking pretty. It’s what she’ll do when she’s a princess after all.