Opinion: Housing is the cost of living crisis

Today there are more affordable products than ever. Not only have freer markets driven down prices on almost every consumer good imaginable they have expanded range. You can get more luxury goods than ever before but you can also get more discount/budget goods. Electronics, clothing, food, beauty products, household items, I could go on… And yet we are experiencing a so-called ‘Cost of Living Crisis.’ This is a fundamentally dishonest way of framing the debate about cost of living today. There is no ‘cost of food crisis,’ no ‘cost of washing machines crisis,’ and no ‘cost of clothes’ crisis. The only thing that is more expensive is housing.

Housing outside London is 35% more expensive than its equivalent in wider Europe according to a new study, ‘The impact of the supply constraints on house prices in England,’ set to be published in the Economic Journal. This is certainly not due to a lack of enfranchisement. Like everything else credit and mortgages are cheaper than they have ever been due to interest rates being kept artificially low. So what’s the problem? According to this paper, houses are too expensive because the supply has been needlessly cauterized. The UK has suffered from dysfunctional housing policies since the aftermath of WWII. However, the seeds of this dysfunction were sown even earlier. The Town & Country Planning Act 1947 deepened this dysfunction and houses are meaner in size and shorter in supply than they ought to be directly because of this legislation and its subsequent incarnations. The supply issue was subsequently worsened most notably under Thatcher and Blair. 

In retrospect the way Right To Buy was implemented  showed an incredulous lack of foresight from a party that loves property owners. Had the Thatcher government replaced every council house sold with two more council houses, Right To Buy would have been one of the most empowering policies ever dreamt up. Without doing so, however, it damned the generation born under it to accommodation misery. The Blair government did nothing substantial to replenish the housing stock, social or private, which, whilst encouraging immigration, chronically worsened an already bad situation. The Coalition’s remedies of a Bedroom Tax and even cheaper mortgages with the Help To Buy scheme are the policy equivalents of giving Panadol to an AIDs patient; it barely even treats the symptom of a serious disease.

Today, I want for nothing. There is only one thing I fret about never being able to afford and that is a home of my own. The authors of the ‘The impact of the supply constraints on house prices in England’ show that I’m right to be worried:

Our empirical analysis suggests that the English planning system has also made house prices substantially more volatile. Most owner-occupiers have to ‘overinvest’ in housing due to an investment constraint induced by owner-occupied housing (Henderson and Ioannides, 1983). Hence, in contrast to corporate and institutional investors, constrained owner-occupier households cannot adequately diversify their portfolios. An increase in house price volatility increases this distortion and therefore reduces the likelihood of owning*, all else equal (Turner, 2003; Hilber, 2005).

If politicians are serious about helping those struggling and getting people on the first rung of the property ladder, they should aggressively review the English planning system in its entirety.

 

* Emphasis my own.

* The author is known to the Liberal Democrat Voice team and is writing under a pseuodonym.

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86 Comments

  • A good article but I would argue with some of your points

    You Say ” There is no ‘cost of food crisis” I disagree, whilst food items have been falling in price in some area’s so has the size of the product.
    For example Blocks of cheese, while fallen in price, they have also reduced the size of the package from 500g to 350g
    Nappies contain 2 fewer nappies. Most household cleaning products have shrunk in size. I am not going to list them all, just giving an example.
    So in reality although some items have fallen slightly in price, in reality it is costing more as people need to buy more of the product.
    ” no ‘cost of washing machines crisis” Whilst the cost of the washing machine itself may not have risen, the cost of the electricity to run it has risen dramatically.

    The rest of your article I agree with, especially right to buy. It should have been written into law that for every council house sold off for right to buy, one more should have been built.
    It should have also been written into legislation that whenever someone who has purchased a council house on the right to buy scheme and that persons decides to sell that house at a later date, the council should automatically be obliged to buy it back at full market value. At present the council only has to “consider” buying it back If you sell your home within 10 years of buying it through Right to Buy,

  • “The rest of your article I agree with, especially right to buy. It should have been written into law that for every council house sold off for right to buy, one more should have been built.
    It should have also been written into legislation that whenever someone who has purchased a council house on the right to buy scheme and that persons decides to sell that house at a later date, the council should automatically be obliged to buy it back at full market value.”

    A hilarious way to totally bankrupt local government every time house prices rise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Sep '14 - 12:13pm


    In retrospect the way Right To Buy was implemented showed an incredulous lack of foresight from a party that loves property owners. Had the Thatcher government replaced every council house sold with two more council houses, Right To Buy would have been one of the most empowering policies ever dreamt up.

    I was in communication with the minister for housing (Ian Gow) at the time the Right to Buy was implemented. I was then Chair of the Brighton and Hove Young Liberals, he was MP for the nearby constituency of Eastbourne. I raised just this point: while the “Right to Buy” looked very generous to those who had already benefited from being allocated cost-price rented housing under council housing, what would happen to the next generation once that council housing was gone? Housing was then, as it is now, a particularly acute problem for Brighton and Hove, sandwiched as it is between the sea and the South Downs “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” as it was then, full National Park as it is now, and with it being an attractive area for people from outside to move to, while local wages were, and remain, low.

    His answer was that I shouldn’t worry, I remember his words “the housing will still be there”, only privately owned rather than owned by the council. Of course, privately owned means it is allocated to who can pay the most for it, rather than who has most need for it, but he skated over that.

    It is all very well saying that “in retrospect” the way it was implemented showed an incredulous lack of foresight. I was there then and I could see how it would pan out. I remember Housing officers in the council saying then how they feared this would go. The huge profits that could be made from buying and selling on council housing meant people would use all sorts of tricks. The favourite one was if you had elderly parents who hadn’t long to live, buy it for them, wait till they died, sell it of, pocket the cash it gave you. However, it was almost impossible to come out in public against the “Right to Buy” and the way it as implemented. If you did so, you were denounced by the free market fanatics as some sort of socialist who took a delight in seeing people oppressed by living as tenants.

    I grew up in a council house in the Brighton conurbation. The freedom it gave my parents and my family was immense. It enabled us to get where we are now. The next generation have been denied that freedom. Oh, no “oppression” from being council tenants, instead the oppression of having no chance of any housing at all … Or of being at the mercy of a private landlord, charging several times what the same property would be let out for if it were council housing (and often “Right to Buy” council housing ended up bought as “buy-to-let”) – paid for by the taxpayer if you are on Housing Benefits, and trapping you because every pound more you earn means a drop in housing benefit, yet you are never going to earn enough if you are a typical working-class southerner, to be able to pay local private rents.

    As for “aggressively review the English planning system”, well just where WOULD the housing be built? For us in Brighton, in the sea or on the South Downs National Park? When I was a young child, the downland valleys WERE being filled in with housing, just as I saw places we knew as field become housing, so my mother remembered the very place where our council house was situated being a downland field when SHE was a child.

    I have sat on planning committees as councillor, after I moved to London. It is made out to us that the planning system in this country is incredibly restrictive. Yet my abiding memories of sitting on Planning committees is having to face down the public attacks that came with EVERY proposal for new house building, and accusations that we councillors “must have been bribed by the developers” when we approved it. Most members of the public assumed we had the right to turn down any proposal we felt like turning down, or our constituents asked us to turn down, but the reality is that you cam only turn down an application if there are legal grounds to do so. In all these case where we approved an application in the face of mass local opposition it was because we were advised that if we rejected it, the developers would appeal, there was no real legal case to defend the rejection, so it would go through anyway, with extra legal costs for the council. That did not stop the abuse thrown at us as we exited the Planning Committee meetings, it rings in my ears to this day.

    So, while this idea that all that is needed is to get rid of these supposedly extremely restrictive planning laws and the housing problem is solved is a a popular one, I’m afraid its popularity is there only so long as those who think it is a solution also think “not in my back yard”.

    You can never build enough housing to meet desires, because everyone will desire to have a big mansion with lots of land surrounding it, and a smart city pad, and a holiday home somewhere more distant. And there are people who desire these things and can afford to pay more them than people who have nowhere to live can afford to pay. That is, if you just build more, it will be bought up by those who want more and can pay for it, not by those who need something but can’t afford it.

    Housing will also be bought up by those who don’t need it so long as it remains an “investment” that pays off more than any other sort of investment. I have seen where I live in London – if a new block of flats is built, you see the “For Sale” signs go up one month, the “To Let” signs the next. Someone who can afford to pay a big deposit and guarantee repayment through being rich can always buy it and so deprive a poorer person of it – and then let it out to the poorer person with Housing Benefit making sure the taxpayer is the guarantor of the rent being paid.

    Sara – the Surrey Heath constituency is a very nice place, full of big houses and lots of nice countryside. How do the people there feel about you wanting to scrap the planning system and build all over that nice countryside, let those big houses be demolished and great big tower blocks put in their place? Have you told them this is what you want to see?

  • Matthew – “but the reality is that you cam only turn down an application if there are legal grounds to do so.”

    Totally agree having over the years engaged with the planning process in my area. I think that many, including the author, believe that simply objecting to something and having it covered by the press is sufficient to delay or stop a planning application. From my experience, because of the very short notice given and period of time in which objections can be formally presented and the need to base objections on legal grounds, very few people actually submit objections, even when there is a sizeable and vocal local opposition.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '14 - 2:00pm

    As long as Right to Buy discounts exist, building new housing is a mug’s game for Councils. Odd, isn’t it, that these Tory bribes were justified at the time on the grounds that tenants had already paid many times over the value of their houses (though how that could be true of someone who’d only lived there a couple of years was never explained), yet now we are told that all social housing is some sort of benefit that should only go to the poor…

    End Right to Buy. Enable local councils to build houses themselves. It actually worked pretty well (not perfectly) as a solution before, unlike deregulation and all the various permutations of Bribe to Buy that we’ve seen in the last thirty years.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '14 - 2:02pm

    By the way, S

    1) Housing isn’t the only part of the so-called “cost of living crisis”, though it’s surely a big one. Fuel costs are also going up exponentially (which matters rather more than the cost of washing machines and beauty products).

    2) Please learn the difference between “incredulous” and “incredible”! That one makes my teeth hurt every time.

  • @MBoy

    “A hilarious way to totally bankrupt local government every time house prices rise.”

    Firstly I do not agree with the Right to buy policy in the first place (Although I admit to using it)

    However, if we are to keep it then I fail to see why councils should not be forced to replace any stock that they sell. We have a desperate lack of social housing partly to blame by the right to buy scheme.

    Governments keep banging on about the need for 300’000 new homes and affordable/ social housing to be built a year and it IS SIMPLY NOT HAPPENING.
    So yes I believe that due to the governments are not reaching their targets, they should provide local council with the funds to buy back ex council properties if they come back on the market.

    The Housing Benefit bill will not come under control whilst their is a massive shortage in social housing and more and more people are forced to rent in the private sector which inflates rents.

    Matthew Huntbach is quite correct when he says that a lot of ex-council properties that have been brought on the right to buy scheme, eventually end up in the hands of private property landlords who rent these properties out. With extortionate rates which end up costing the tax payer even more in Housing Benefits.

    In an Ideal world the government would scrap this ludicrous right to buy scheme altogether

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Sep '14 - 2:16pm

    Roland, yes, I’m seeing this coming up time and time again, this claim that high house prices are just due to “the English planning system”, so there’s an instant easy answer: abolish that system, let houses be built where and when landowners want, heh presto, everyone will be happy, the market will provide.

    Yet I find those who push forward this line NEVER bother to engage with the real issue, never bother to look at the other side and ask why it is that we have this planning system, and what would actually happen if it were got rid of?

    I was a councillor in an inner London borough, the sort of planning applications I was dealing with were those that the “build more houses” brigade urge on us as particularly easy-peasy build options – mostly scrappy pieces of land, “brown sites”, not much in the way of large scale natural beauty or important natural history resources. Yet when some big new block of flats was proposed to be built on some scrap of land that had lain empty for a while, maybe had a few trees grown up on it, the anger of local residents at that little bit of greenery going was very evident. During the 12 years I was councillor, it was quite remarkable how many of those little bits of land did get filled up with housing.

    If that’s the case in an unlovely (sorry Lewisham) part of London where people aren’t really so clued up on how to fight against the power-that-be, how much more outrage are we going to see if it were proposed to have much larger scale building in much more rural and greener parts, with residents who are much more able to use their power and strength and contacts to oppose it? That is why I mentioned Sara Scarlett’s constituency – plum land on the outskirts of London, what she so blithely proposes DOES mean building on it large scale, it is, after all, where people want to live. Does Sara honestly think that could easily be done? Is Sara really willing to face up to all those people in their big houses in that very pleasant green-fringe part of Surrey and tell them “Your greenery is to go, it is to be covered in new houses”? Will it be in the Liberal Democrat literature that is circulated in Surrey Heath next year in the general election: “We will solve the housing problem by building all over this place”?

    Now, the issue is that those who benefit most from the housing system we have in this country i.e. those who already own big properties, tend also to those who scream the loudest at any proposals which might “reduce the value” of those properties by making their surroundings less green and pleasant through new building. It’s another of those Daily Mail having it both ways lines, they’ll scream “dirty rotten politicians” and accuse politicians of being old-style socialists who don’t appreciate how the market is the solution to everything through hanging on to this “English planning system”, but if the planning system ever were seriously tackled leading to large scale building projects on previously green pieces of land, especially those inhabited by wealthy establishment types, they’ll be the first to scream “dirty rotten politicians, ruining our green land through your insistence on building on it against what decent people want”. It’s just like they’ll scream “dirty rotten politicians” at any proposals for tax rises and “dirty rotten politicians” at all those many many things they think the government should be doing and isn’t.

  • Steve Griffiths 16th Sep '14 - 4:03pm

    We should not forget that there was ‘right to buy’ in some local authorities before 1979. I was born and raised in council housing and my parents were able to buy their rented council house from the local authority in 1969 (Oxford) with a council provided mortgage. I do recall much council house building in that following decade in my local area. As Matthew has already mentioned above, it gave our parents a great boost and enabled their family to be upwardly mobile. However, as others have also mentioned above, the numbers of council properties being built declined to a point where the sales were not replaced with new build.

    In the early 1990s I was Lib Dem Acting Housing Committee Chair of an Oxfordshire rural district council, (during the long term illness of the Independent Chair). We had a shortage of council houses then, and I recall the council was sitting on an excess of around £14M in the bank from previous council house sales. The Tory Government at the time would not allow these balances to be released for further new build. I wrote to the then MP Douglas Hurd about the difficulty in providing enough houses for demand, but he did not seem to think it was a problem at the time.

    We all hoped that the incoming Blair New Labour administration would allow these balances to be released for new council housing. Despite hints at election time, very little was released for that purpose. The first Blair government was very timid where housing was concerned and I recall a New Labour spokesman telling us that the house sale balances held by local authorities would affect the PSBR if they were spent. Many Lib Dem councillors at the time were not convinced by this explanation, citing systems of rented housing finance in European Countries where similar balances were not included in the calculation for the equivalent PSBRs.

  • David Evershed 16th Sep '14 - 4:40pm

    The reason house prices are high is because planning permission is rationed, which means development land prices are high (about 50% of the cost of a house) and new house supply is limited.

    The reason planning permission is rationed is our own choice. We don’t like new developments on green fields and we don’t like damaging the environmental or the ecology. As a result political parties will not allow a free-for-all with planning approval.

    The price we all pay to get the restricted planning approval we want is high house prices. We just have to decide the right balance between what we want for house prices and what we want for the planning approval system. We can’t have both. It is a trade off.

  • “…the policy equivalents of giving Panadol to an AIDs patient;,.”

    Whereas S offers snake oil for the patient.

    Rather than acknowledging that a housing shortage is best solved by building homes for the homeless she blames everything on regulation of the market and The Town and Country Planning Act.

    As said earlier by Caracatus 16th Sep ’14 – 1:46pm
    The housing policy has not been dysfunctional since 1945 – the dysfunction set in in 1979 when Thatcher started implementing the policies of the right wing think tanks favoured by Liberal Vision !

    Why should we not be surprised that S, a representative of big corporations and their fromt organisations, would propose a solution that would help property spivs ? Land developers who without planning controls would cover the green belt with lowest common denominator houses from which they can extract the maximum profit for the minimum investment.

    She ignores the fact that where this has been allowed to happen such properties often remain empty going up in price somthatbthe developer makes an even bigger profit or they are let to the homeless on short term tenancies with no long term security and constantly in danger of eviction if the landlords can see a way of making an even faster buck.

    To pretend that her semi-religious faith in free markets would do something for the homeless beggars belief.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '14 - 5:06pm

    “I used the word incredulous deliberately. I think they’re motivations were deliberately short sighted. “
    Um. But that’s not what “incredulous” means. It means “not credulous”, that is “sceptical, unbelieving”. I’m sorry if you feel patronised, but you’re just using it wrong. (I’m going to give you some credit and assume that “they’re” was also deliberate, since nothing shows your libertarian credentials like demonstrating your contempt for grammar.)

  • Simon McGrath 16th Sep '14 - 5:07pm

    @john — where do you think houses should be built then?

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Sep '14 - 6:12pm

    S” it also means “unbelievable” ”
    No, it doesn’t.
    See this
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/incredulous?s=t

    Maybe councils could be empowered to compulsorily purchase agricultural (eg) land for development, grant planning permission, and then resell some of it to developers for private development. If done right, that would pay for a lot of the council houses built on the remainder. Yes, I can hear the screams from the 1% already.

  • “Not only have freer markets driven down prices on almost every consumer good imaginable …”

    When prices are lower it’s mainly down to technological progress, most obviously in electronic goods but less obviously in a wide range of other sectors too. The record of ‘freer markets’ (in the sense that recent governments including this one use that term) is at best mixed. For them it means few or no ground rules for large corporations which ‘freedom’ has enabled them to create oligopolies that then RAISE prices although this is often masked. For example over a decade or so the major supermarkets raised their price for retailing milk (their gross margin) from around 1 p/litre to over 15 p/litre but this wasn’t obvious because over the same timeframe farmers managed to hold farm-gate prices while inflation muddied the water.

    The housing crisis is partly due to a surging population (which few here want to acknowledge is an issue!) but mainly because market fundamentalists just love to blame everything on regulation (planning in this context) and remain deaf to any other causes that, if tackled, might cut into their clients’ profits. That is why we have no Land Value Tax that would penalise land hoarders. That is why banks are allowed to extend ever larger mortgages so throwing a whole generation into debt bondage.

    Alex Marsh has more including a link to a great speech by Churchill from 1909 that shows this simply isn’t a problem that dates from the Planning Act.

    http://www.alexsarchives.org/the-missing-ingredient/

  • A Social Liberal 16th Sep '14 - 6:16pm

    I couldn’t agree with S less. Yes, housing is a major cost, but food and energy are THE major household costs. Food prices might be coming down (although I haven’t seen too much of that in my supermarkets) but it is still a huge chunk out of a budget. Petrol is another major slice of the budget pie if you have to travel any distance to work

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Sep '14 - 6:28pm

    Malcolm Todd – I agree with your comment. Quite frankly I struggle to come up with a form of words to describe the right-to-buy and the BTL class that would not see me banned for life from LDV.

    But, as much as RTB and BTL has been a 30+ year catastrophe (well, unless you got the sweet end of the deal), we are where we are. At this point one has to look at what can be done to help make an awful situation just that bit less awful. The basic problem is that UK shorthold tenancies are basically one step removed from homelessness. Other countries seem to be able to come up with a form of renting that doesn’t involve being permanently 4-6 weeks away from destitution and there is no reason we can’t do likewise. Beyond that there is an urgent need to get rents (and HB for that matter) down somehow.

    One option might be to look for ways to ensure that houses do not fall into buy-to-let hands, there are probably legal ways to do that. It is also worth noting that other EU countries place restrictions on foreign ownership of residential property – as distasteful as some on here might find the idea.

    It is always something I found surprising about Thatcher – she thought that inflation was the great evil of the time. But that didn’t seem to apply to house price hyperinflation.

    McGrath – ‘where do you think houses should be built then?’ Well, those looking to buy/rent are customers and the customer is sovereign king right? So the market God will tell us, won’t it?

  • “Maybe councils could be empowered to compulsorily purchase agricultural (eg) land for development, grant planning permission, and then resell some of it to developers for private development.”

    Jenny that is legalising theft!

    I find it telling that people think it is okay to make proposals such as this, but not propose the logical extension of this policy namely: empowering councils to compulsorily purchase developed land ie. land that is currently being used for houses etc., at agricultural prices, grant planning permission for higher density of development and resell it. The advantage of this policy take is that it would permit housing to be built in our cities; where most of the demand exists for housing.

  • Very good article. Building new homes creates wealth as the money flows into something productive.

    However, once a house is built no new wealth is created. All that happens when it is sold is wealth is transferred. The UK’s disfunctional housing market has transferred wealth from the young to the old.

    With a wealth transfer there are winners and losers. In this case the older generations and the landlords win and the young lose.

    The problem is politicians have no desire to do anything about this. F*** the young is the new political mantra of our age as they target the grey vote.

    Labour wanted to pay the rents of the unemployed directly to the property owning landlords making owning a house rented to someone on benefits a win for the landlord and a lose to the taxpayer.

    The Lib Dems and the Tories wanted to underwrite mortgages with help to back driving up prices resulting a win for the existing property owners and the banks.

    The political debate was which of those two approaches was best. Nobody even serious considered building large amounts of good quality council housing. No party wants to go there.

    If you’re young and not serious about doing anything about this, and supporting a party like the Lib Dems (or Tory or Labour or SNP) shows no desire to fundamentally change things then get used to renting. Get used to the idea that you may never own your own home and that a large part of your wage will have to get used to pay someone else’s mortgage from now until you die.

    None of the main parties have any desire to help the young at the expense of the older voters. Which is what affordable housing would do. As I said Sara, get used to renting.

  • Sorry one other point. “There is no ‘cost of food crisis”. Umm yeah there is. That is why there are so many ‘food banks’. I might be wrong but I’m guessing that you’re middle class and for the middle class there is no food crisis. For a lot of people in poverty however there is.

    For the young middle class there is a housing crisis, the parties would like to help them with that but will never do so at the expense of older members of the middle class who’s home values would fall in the event of the mass building of affordable housing. So forget affordable housing. Not. Going. To. Happen.

    For the political parties however there is no food crisis to worry about. Because once someone falls below a certain social/economic level they no longer care about them. And those who have to worry about food costs are below the level they care about. If food prices are a real problem for you then there will not be a mainstream politician who gives a damn, fortunately there are a lot of kind souls who do give a damn though and they are the kind of people that create food banks, not an ideal solution but the best that can be done without the support of the state I’m afraid.

  • You say that you think homelessness is a separate issue from housing.

    That says a great deal. If you think of a house as a commodity to be bought like a fridge or a microwave that maybe explains why you are unable to see the need for regulation of the housing market not only the Town and country planning act but also by building regs etc.

    In some states of the USA they have the sort of free market pproach that you promote. In one of the richest countries in the world people in those states people are living in trailers and sleeping in old cars. Is that what you want for this country?

  • Firstly, I would recommend S reads the report before she quotes it. What it says, is that HP’s would be 35% lower in the UK if we had zero planning restrictions. Not that our HP’s are 35% higher than Europe.

    Hibler has based these figures using refusal rates(planning) comparing those where they are high to where they are low.
    Unfortunately, anyone who is familiar with the various regions across the UK, will know this is comparing apples with oranges. The urban landscape in Newcastle being very different from that in say Reading, which has been post-industrial for many more years.

    Furthermore, if Hilber is right, we would expect to see discretionary incomes higher where refusal rates are lowest. We don’t. Average discretionary incomes are remarkably flat across the UK. Which puts a massive hole in their 35% assumptions.

    The 2011 census showed we have more dwellings per capita than ever. So, a shortage of housing is not the problem. In fact we have a huge surplus. One million empty homes, 25 million empty bedrooms and land banks enough to last ten years.

    The problem regarding housing affordability stems from one problem. Capitalised land rent, which as economists like Hilber like to call it, Regulation Tax. This implicitly acknowledges that land rent is a defacto State subsidy to landowners.

    Capitalised land rent not only pushes up prices, it is the cause of allocational inefficiency (vacancy, under occupancy, land banking), urban sprawl, NIMBYISM, perverse planning incentives, poor quality/size of new homes, regional inequality and stunted GDP.

    If Regulation Tax were no longer privatised, the average UK household would be £11,000 better off Net. When you factor in the drop in HP’s as well, an average new household would be paying around £6000 pa less in mortgage payments.

    Taken together, housing affordability increases four fold, as a ratio of discretionary income, for an average UK household.

    Would we still need to build more homes? Not in terms of “need” but in order to fulfill desires for better living conditions instead.

    Collecting land rent for public revenue internalises externalities in the spatial environment, so NIMBYs would then be faced with a pure cost/benefit choice. As would local planners looking to maximise revenues.

    Scrapping Greenbelt regulations will have little impact on affordability issues, and will come with efficiency costs.

    The supply side fundamentalists, like Hibler have a track record of getting this wrong. It was they who recommended scrapping minimum size standards. Results? Smaller homes, higher land prices, high house prices and bigger unearned profit for land owners. Looks like we are about to make the same mistake.

    Capitalised land rent IS the problem, not supply side regulations.

  • @ JohnTilley”In some states of the USA they have the sort of free market pproach that you promote. In one of the richest countries in the world people in those states people are living in trailers and sleeping in old cars. Is that what you want for this country?” – John I think that must be exactly what they want. Or at least something that they’re will to accept. It should be abundantly clear to anyone with half a brain cell that those policies will lead to US style trailer parks so clearly it is a consequence that the likes of liberal vision are willing to accept.

    I’m just glad I did the right thing (for me) and left the Lib Dems…

  • @JohnTilley – Homelessness is a far more serious and complex problem than you comprehend! It’s linked to many factors such as mental health and substance abuse which can’t be solved by simply making houses cheaper. So yes, it’s a separate issue and that’s why I see it as such. You can put your straw man away now.

  • There is no cost of food crisis. Food is cheap. People are impoverished by their housing costs before their food costs. A recent study by Shelter proved that.

  • Nick Barlow 16th Sep '14 - 9:24pm

    Roland – compulsory purchase of land and then selling it on with planning permission was one of the ways they funded New Towns in the 50th and 60s.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Sep '14 - 10:16pm

    Hi S. Your article identifies that mortgages are being kept artificially cheap, but then says the problem is planning regulations. Planning regulations might be a problem, but mortgages being kept artificially cheap is also a problem. This creates more demand for houses and therefore increases their price.

    It is important to deal with this, otherwise it looks like the fundamental belief is boosting demand for housing, rather than liberalism.

    Regards

  • @Sara “@JohnTilley – Homelessness is a far more serious and complex problem than you comprehend!” – Well judging by his comments and yours I think homelessness is probably far more of a serious and complex problem than YOU can comprehend, rather than John. If there is someone showing a lack of understanding it’s you Sara. I’m gussing that you’re a middle class right winger under the age of 30…

    Seriously, where do the Lib Dems find these clowns.

  • In fact, why don’t Liberal Vision, the Orange Bookers and the rest of them go join the Tories…

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '14 - 10:34pm

    My apologies, S I was aiming for arch rather than obnoxious and misjudged the tone. I didn’t intend to be offensive or patronising; or indeed to take this thread off in an irrelevant direction.

  • A Social Liberal 16th Sep '14 - 11:20pm

    I am struggling to take you seriously, S. Can you expand on just why you think that food is cheap please

  • Caracatus
    “S – The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Thatchers Favourite think tank is a s you know fronted by Mark Littlewood – formerly head of Liberal Vision. IEA was around in 1979 spouting the ‘free market’ nonsense Liberal Vision spouts today.”

    Errr. The IEA was founded in 1955, I have noticed you making this claim before so it is obviously one you regularly make.

    The title “Margret Thatcher’s Favourite think tank” has been attributed (but not on any proven basis) to the Adam Smith Institute which incidentally was started in August 1977.

    That took me less than 2 minute to check on google, checking your facts is not hard try it once and a while.

    “’I see some value in having general and minimal planning rules’ – says it all really – you see we have tried it before in this country it was called slums”

    Actually it was tried int eh 1930s and the criticism was that it was “Urban Sprawl” but what it mainly was the the strip developing of the 1930s Semis, like the house I grew up in and sorry to disappoint it was not a slum.

  • Mr Wallace
    “In fact, why don’t Liberal Vision, the Orange Bookers and the rest of them go join the Tories…”

    Probably because they are not conservatives?

    An equally childish suggestion could be why don’t people who disagree with them go off and join any number of other parties. But that would be a line of argument that demonstrates someone has nothing to contribute to any discussion.

  • Psi 16th Sep ’14 – 11:38p
    “In fact, why don’t Liberal Vision, the Orange Bookers and the rest of them go join the Tories…”
    Probably because they are not conservatives?

    What are they then? The websites of the various organisations that S and Mark Littlewood are associated with (not just the wrongly named Liberal Vision) are Hayek inspired, USA style right wing Libertarian. Just follow the link that Sara’s blue name and google the organisations in list she provides for us.

    There is a considerable overlap between these organisation and the wilder shores of the Conservative and Unionist Party. For example one fellow traveller is Mr Carswell the Clacton MP who recently morphed effortlessly from loyal Conservative to UKIP icon. Other much murkier forces are at work amongst the “Libertarian Jihadis” that Sara Scarlet receives funding from. These fundamentalist believers in completely unregulated capitalism are certainly well to the right of many Tories. Whatever they are – they are nothing remotely like Liberal Democrats.

    It would be perverse as you suggest for members of our party who believe in and are inspired by the preamble to the constitution of our party to leave whilst entryists with other beliefs and aims remain.
    Perhaps you would acknowledge that it is Ms Scarlet’s extreme views that are variance with basic Liberal Democrat beliefs?
    I am assuming you yourself are not a member of the Liberal Democrats?

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '14 - 7:26am

    @Psi “Errr. The IEA was founded in 1955, I have noticed you making this claim before so it is obviously one you regularly make”
    Errr. Doesn’t this mean it was still around in 1979 as claimed by Caracatus?

  • Peter Watson

    “Errr. Doesn’t this mean it was still around in 1979 as claimed by Caracatus?”

    Perhaps you missed the point, Caracatus is confusing the IEA with the ASI.

    The IEA has been producing long policy papers for years, and did result in major policy changes before that point. The ASI who Caractus appears to actually talking about arrived shortly before the 1979 Government was elected which produced significant impacts on policy.

    The attempt to attack the IEA by trying to associate it with a “Thatcher” brand (which is mostly meaning less) is an attempt to play the man and not the ball.

    Which is rather similar to the “why don’t you joint the Tories/Labour/Greens/UKIP/SNP/BNP” argument it has no validity in the arguments at hand.

    If you dispute a report, say why and point out the flaws.

  • JohnTilley

    “What are they then?”

    If you think really really hard you may be able to work it out.

  • Psi
    If you concentrate really hard and read what I have already written I have identified this group as rightwing Libertarians funded by some of the murkier oligarchs and corporate interests often from the USA.

    I note you did answer my question -Are you a member of the Liberal Democrats. So it would appear you are not.

  • Peter Watson
    It would appear that the all knowing but anonymous Psi seems to think that he knows what you are saying better than you do yourself.
    Caracatus – according to Psi – confusing the IEA and the ASI. He is not.
    But if he were it would be an understandable confusion as they are both right wing groups funded by the Tobacco Industry and pushing a Thatcherite agenda, or something even worse.

  • JohnTilley

    “It would be perverse as you suggest for members of our party who believe in and are inspired by the preamble to the constitution of our party to leave whilst entryists with other beliefs and aims remain.”

    And here comes the strawman. Read it again, I am criticising the approach that demands others should leave not using that approch.

    “Perhaps you would acknowledge that it is Ms Scarlet’s extreme views that are variance with basic Liberal Democrat beliefs?”

    I have no idea what S’s views are on most things as I have never met her. I also don’t presume to be able to speak for the whole population of the LibDems either so your point can’t be answered. I would judge them agains how liberal they are and how likely to suceed. Incidentally what is being suggested is an increase in supply of housing, by a method. I don’t consider that extreme, Matthew Huntbach raises points about the relative effectivenessn this may be an effective criticism on a practical level but not one to render an argument “extreme.”

    “I am assuming you yourself are not a member of the Liberal Democrats?”

    Is it relevant? If the arguments have merit thenthey do if they don’t they don’t why whould the name attached matter? They could be expressed by goat in Nepal for all I care, the relative strengths of the opposing arguments matter.

  • Inflation may be weak, but wage rises are even weaker. Pay rose just 0.6% over the last year, which means for most of us, there’s more month left at the end of the money and not vice versa! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29218855

  • Stephen Campbell 17th Sep '14 - 11:32am

    Based on this article (and comments made by her) as well as comments posted by @Caracatus, S sounds like she would be more at home in UKIP (or the US Tea Party). If this is what passes for mainstream Liberal Democrat thought these days, no wonder nobody votes for this party any longer.

    Oh, and there is indeed a cost of food crisis. Wages are stagnant for millions of us despite working even harder and for longer hours, but food prices are not going down. We have people who are IN WORK having to use food banks. Of course, only someone with a comfortable middle-class life who doesn’t have to choose between food and heating in the winter would tell us there’s no “cost of food crisis”. She doesn’t even know she’s born.

  • Stephen Campbell 17th Sep '14 - 11:48am

    I see that @Sara Scarlett was also an intern for the Cato Institute in the US, which is economically far-right and funded by the Koch brothers (if you don’t know anything about them, look them up). She’s also against Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which has saved the life of a friend of mine in the US who would have died without that help. That’s the thing about extreme free market libertarians: their god is the market and what the market wants always comes before what people need or want. I feel these ideas are incompatible with what this party (used to) stand for and are certainly at odds with the party’s constitution. She is essentially an entryist, much like the Trots in Labour during the 1980s, but on the opposite side of the spectrum.

    Like someone above said “where do you find these clowns”?

  • @ PSI “Mr Wallace
    “In fact, why don’t Liberal Vision, the Orange Bookers and the rest of them go join the Tories…”

    Probably because they are not conservatives?”

    I’m sorry if that came across as rude but I stand by it. These ‘Liberal Vision’ people are economic Tories, very very right wing Tories mind you. They are every bit as extreme in their economics as those in the American Tea Party group who are mostly US Republicans, the nearest thing we have to that is Conservatives.

    Essentially, they want to go back to the sort of capitalist free for all that we had during the industrial revolution, that’s not freedom. For the majority of the population that simply means to have one’s life left at the mercy of the most brutal free market forces.

    We’re talking about a group who’s solution to the housing crisis is to simply scrap building regulations and let the market sort it out. Clearly if you do that your going end up with slums, slumlords and 100,000’s of families living in those said slums. Whilst this is not the mainstream opinion of any of the political parties, if those ideas had to exist inside one of the political parties I think it would be the Tories they were best suited too. Not that most Tories would go in for this type of free market fundamentalism nonsense mind you.

    Anyway, I think this here is the problem the Liberal Democrats have layed bare. The social democratic thought of the likes of Charles Kennedy that is so common in Scottish Lib Dems is incompatible with this Liberal Vision free market fundamentalism. It’s not just differences of opinion it’s two completely separate and incompatible ideologies. So what you have is a party that stands for different things in different parts of the country, when it gets into national government half the voters find out that this is not the party they thought they were. Most Lib Dem voters would run a mile if they heard this sort of stuff.

    Take your defeat in the Scottish elections, this happened because the Scottish voters had found out that the party that ran many of their councils and did well and delivered for Scotland in two coalition governments in Holyrood was not the party they always thought the Lib Dems to be. Because nationally they are not. So they’ve washed their hands with them.

    These free market fundamentalists will fracture your voter base and wreak your party.

    Seriously, I’ll say it again. Most Lib Dem voters would run a mile if they heard this sort of stuff.

  • @Nick Barlow (16th Sep ’14 – 9:24pm)
    “compulsory purchase of land and then selling it on with planning permission was one of the ways they funded New Towns in the 50th and 60s.”

    I haven’t done any research on the new towns, however there is a difference between what is the current basis for calculating compensation and what Jenny and others have propose. My understanding of Jenny’s proposal is that councils CP land at agricultural prices change it’s status to “land with planning permission” and then resell it.

    However, according to current compensation rules, the seller is entitled to the market price the land would sell for if it had already changed status. Hence why you don’t often see farmers up in arms about road schemes and often a few months after the deal has been done a new combine, barn etc. appears. This is right because the main reason why undeveloped land is cheap is because of it’s planning designation which is controlled by the council.

    I think what you will find is that the development corporations of forward thinking new towns, such as Milton Keynes, CP’d all the land they needed at the prevailing market prices and then also funded the core infrastructure development and the initial estates, once the city reached a point where it was attracting private developers, they then began to sell the now improved development land at the prevailing market prices in small lots to developers, thereby helping to ensure the public gained some of the profits from the investment of public monies.

    However, one of the discrepancies in the current system is that land is locally valued, which leads to some odd behaviour. Taking the route of HS2 for example, as far as HS2 is concerned there is no difference between land in north London and land in the home counties, without a contiguous strip of land the entire project becomes totally pointless, hence the value to the project of all land along the route is the same. However, we treat it differently and so we see that a route gets chosen that isn’t necessarily the best, but one that takes advantage of the lower costs of land, even if that leads to some of the weirdness that we see with the HS2 route choices. It would be interesting to see what route would of been chosen if the project had to pay the same price (ie. London prices) for land regardless of where it was on the route.

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Sep '14 - 1:10pm

    “Seriously, I’ll say it again. Most Lib Dem voters would run a mile if they heard this sort of stuff.”

    All 8% of them?

  • Sis asking for intervention to stop the outcomes of economic liberalism. I think the current scenario is great because it allows me to buy many houses and rent them back to people like her, she doesn’t seem to understand how important scarcity is to commodity markets. If we built more houses, my house would be worth less and I wouldn’t be able to rent houses to people like her; that’s just socialism, as evidenced by her appeal to building twice as many COUNCIL HOUSES! She’s proposing huge state expansion at the cost of the private sector (and the environment). As we all know power and money flow to the hands of those who are most capable of wielding it, and this has left S high and dry but it’s working great for me, so from this we can determine that I am simply more capable than her! 😉

    It sounds like she’s started to discover why leaving the market to its own devices with minimal interference might not work. She’s accidentally developing some sense of fairness, if only when applied to her personally – if she could universalise that concept a bit she might start to understand what the rest of us have been banging on about all these years. Sadly, her idea as regards a resolve to these problems seems to be to simply build over the greenbelt, so it makes me think this isn’t such a big turning point for her at all, just another rung on the ladder of selfishness.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Sep '14 - 1:26pm

    Mr Wallace

    So what you have is a party that stands for different things in different parts of the country, when it gets into national government half the voters find out that this is not the party they thought they were. Most Lib Dem voters would run a mile if they heard this sort of stuff.

    Sorry, Mr Wallace, where is that different part of the country where LibDems stand for a different sort of thing than LibDems in Scotland? I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party before that for over 35 years, having been involved in the party in Sussex, Norfolk and London in that time, and in none of these places did I ever find a significant number of party members who supported extreme free market economics. This is not a matter of the party being fundamentally divided. No, it is a matter of a tiny number of people trying to take it over from the top. Please do not write off the rest of us as if we support what they stand for. If anything the Liberal Party in Scotland tended to be somewhat to the right of the Liberal Party in England. In those southern parts of England where perhaps you suppose the Liberals are more right-wing, the opposite is true: these are the places where politics is Conservative v. LibDem, and it’s the LibDems who are the party of the left. See, for example, John Tilley who has been posting here. He comes from well-off outer south-west London, and was active in Liberal politics there. Is he one of these right-wingers you suppose LibDems from those parts are like? Doesn’t look it from what he’s posting, does it?

  • Matthew Hunbach
    Thank you for the name check. You are right but one small pedantic point —
    My parents moved to South West London when I was seven years old.
    I come from Manchester hence my support for MCFC and the fact that I say ‘grass’ to rhyme with mass not farce.
    But you are right that I have always regarded myself as being on the Left. That is why I joined The Liberal Party.

    I take some pride in being the first ever majority leader of Kingston Council who was not a Conservative. In 1994 the residents of this posh suburban ‘Royal’ Borough elected a Liberal Democrat majority with an openly Republican leader from a working class background. We did this on the back of a manifesto for radical devolution of power to neighbourhood committees based closely on what he been done by Liberals in Tower Hamlets, not exactly a posh borough. It was political stance well to the left of the local Labour Party. By 1997, when I stood down as Liberal Democrat leader after 8 years we had also elected Liberal Democrat MPs for the two seats in the borough.

  • Mea culpa – a landlord and a Lib Dem! I’ve always thought that the lack of housing being built and lack of decent, understandable investments for older investors is just about the worst combination for those looking to get on the ladder or have secure tenancies. I think the pension reforms will only entrench this further as cash rich older people look for ‘safe havens’ for cash.

    However, whilst I agree with the central premise that a removal of planning restrictions may lower prices I do question who this would help! Clearly the developers (increased profit margins), the investors (I don’t mind owning a shoebox flat as I have no intention of living in it!) but do young people want small, sub-standard properties?

    If this does help young people I would imagine it’s only after everyone else has had their fill (provided there is anything left). Much better to leave planning as is and allow Local Authorities to directly build (or not) and answer to the electorate!

    From that I don’t think the

  • Here one for you S. A quote from you on your LV site “The price of houses is directly linked to lack of supply.”

    If that is the case, how many extra houses would we have to build before the value of the Duke of Westminster’s residential falls to zero?

    What’s funny is, since his family were given his land by the King many a moon ago, the more houses we have built, the more valuable his land has got.

    There’s nothing special about the Duke. All homeowners are landowners like the Duke. You cannot apply simplistic supply/demand arguments to land and therefore houses. It’s a little bit more complex than that.

    You have to ask some very basic questions about the nature of what makes location valuable. Number 1. Agglomeration. Start from there, but the list is endless.

    Where do you see the highest property prices in the World? Where do you see the lowest? Have wages got anything to do with it perhaps? Population size? Coastal locations? Taxes?

    Once you correlate those, does zoning as a factor matter? I’ve done the research, and I can tell you it doesn’t.

  • @jedibeeftrix

    “Seriously, I’ll say it again. Most Lib Dem voters would run a mile if they heard this sort of stuff.

    All 8% of them?”

    Haha, yeah… I had a look at the Liberal Vision website, it sure looks like the UK’s version of the USA’s Tea Party movement to me anyway…

    Slap those ideas into the next Lib Dem manifesto and on the election leaflets and see what happens 😉 I reckon that 8% will quickly become 0.8%.

    There is almost nobody in the UK who would vote for a manifesto that looks like it could have been written by the Koch brothers. And for good reason. That sort of US Libertarianism is individualism without any real acknowledgement of our responsibilities to others and our society.

    You won’t get real freedom without acknowledging and trying to careful balance the individual’s freedoms with our social responsibilities to each other. Hence freedom and liberty will always be imperfect and the policies needed to maximize it will change over time and constantly need reviewing.

    Rather than give people real freedom that s**t just gives a few rich and powerful people the freedom to exploit everyone else via an unregulated (and hence free) market.

    People in the UK do believe in individual freedom but not the American Tea Party type of self-centered narcissism that’s quite frankly, in my opinion, bordering on the sociopathic…

    Ms Scarlet, I’m sure you’re not a sociopath and ask you not to take any of this personally, but I would ask you to forget what some libertarian theorist tells you will happen and actually carefully reflect on what would happen, in the real world where we actually live (not a text book), if we just did things like abolish the planing laws and minimum standards for housing. You’d just have a field full of old caravans and sheds and children growing up in them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Sep '14 - 7:29pm

    John Tilley

    In 1994 the residents of this posh suburban ‘Royal’ Borough elected a Liberal Democrat majority with an openly Republican leader from a working class background. We did this on the back of a manifesto for radical devolution of power to neighbourhood committees based closely on what he been done by Liberals in Tower Hamlets, not exactly a posh borough.

    Indeed. This idea that the way to get votes for the Liberals or LibDems in the south is to adopt right-wing Tory politics is just so wrong. There’s a big latent left vote in supposedly posh or true blue areas, and my motivation for getting involved in the Liberals was that I felt they were able to get it when Labour wasn’t. I go back to Des Wilson’s radical campaign in the Hove by-election, which he nearly won. As Des put it later, they said “Well, if we’d had a more moderate candidate maybe we’d have won”, so they put in a more moderate candidate later and the vote slumped. The first council election I stood as a candidate I ran a radical left campaign, and thought I’d handed the seat to the Tories by doing that – but I actually pushed the Tories down to third place and Labour won.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Sep '14 - 7:38pm

    Mr Wallace

    There is almost nobody in the UK who would vote for a manifesto that looks like it could have been written by the Koch brothers. And for good reason. That sort of US Libertarianism is individualism without any real acknowledgement of our responsibilities to others and our society

    Yes, and you can see the sort of person who wants to push that sort of thing here is usually a wannabe American, that;s often obvious from the way what they write is full of Americanisms (I note that Sara Scarlett uses “gotten”).

    The US has a very different culture and geography, so what might just work there, or at least not be so disastrous won’t work the same here. The US has hugely more land per person than England, as an obvious example. Our land was all parcelled out to the aristocracy in 1066. The US still has the mentality that there’s a wild west frontier out there, so anyone squeezed out of ownership can just go out there and grab a few acres. It’s maybe easier to think of extreme free market as all about freedom if you haven’t got the experience of being squeezed out of the possibility of ownership and thus being at the mercy of those who do own things.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '14 - 9:12pm

    Mr Wallace – The US Tea Party started out life as basically a middle-class reaction to a heap of bad trends. Debt-funded education, loaded housing markets, corporate interests in de facto monopoly positions, stagnant wages and the diminution of organised labour. If whig liberalism lives anywhere it is the US and the Tea Party was a manifestation of it. It was only later that the Tea Party became what it is today.

    If you look at just how strong Tea Party opposition to bank bail-outs was you see there is still some of the original politics in there.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '14 - 9:14pm

    Matthew Huntbach – May I suggest this? Perhaps the best thing I have read in years. Restored my faith in the world for a few hours at least.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/revolt-of-the-rich/

  • Matthew Huntbach and John Tilley
    I don’t think the Lib Dem vote suffered where I have stood, at Parliamentary County and District level – and I have stood in a pretty safe SW seat for the Tories, and at Council level in probably the most Tory ward locally. I was elected at Town Council level in that ward. Yes, I suppose I am a masochist!

  • @ Little Jackie Paper “The US Tea Party started out life as basically a middle-class reaction to a heap of bad trends. Debt-funded education, loaded housing markets, corporate interests in de facto monopoly positions, stagnant wages and the diminution of organised labour. If whig liberalism lives anywhere it is the US and the Tea Party was a manifestation of it. It was only later that the Tea Party became what it is today.”

    No idea what it started out as, I’m only really interested in what it is now I guess.

    What it is now is a bit like the French revolution in reverse as someone put it. It’s a load of (mostly) poor and gullible people demanding that the super rich be given even more at their expense. Those idiots are being taken for one hell of a ride. If they ever got the sort of policies they demand they’d see it too when they (not the so called ‘liberal elites’ from the Ivy league they rail against) turned out to be the ones who got royally shafted, again.

    You’ve gotta had it to the Koch’s though, being able to persuade millions of low income people to demand that the Affordable Care Act is scrapped is really something…

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '14 - 10:50pm

    Mr Wallace – Take a look at the link I put up to Matthew Huntbach.

  • @LJP – Interesting article you linked to.
    The comment about the decline of the nation state, reminded me how it has been largely absent from the recent discussions on independence, federalism, regional assembles etc.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '14 - 11:56am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Matthew Huntbach – May I suggest this?

    I’m not sure what point you’re making here. I think you will find that a lot of my commentary in LibDem Voice comes from already seeing things as they are put in this article.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '14 - 12:04pm

    Mr Wallace

    What it is now is a bit like the French revolution in reverse as someone put it. It’s a load of (mostly) poor and gullible people demanding that the super rich be given even more at their expense.

    Indeed, UKIP here is much the same. They use their power and influence to whip up cheap sentiment. Their game is very obvious – keep pushing the line “politics is bad, all politicians are evil, don’t get involved”, and that can be sold as radical and on the side of the people, while in reality being used to push politics to the right (because the mass membership a powerful left needs is destroyed), to push it even further to the right (because the line “politics and politicians are bad” is used to justify privatisation i.e. giving away power and control form democracy to the business elite), and to push it further to the right yet more (because the consequence of what this leads to is very unhappy people, politicians who don’t seem to know or care about those people, and an easy picking ground for the snake oil salesmen to push their anti-politics line further and deeper).

  • @Matthew and John, it is so sad that far too few in the centre of the party lack the understanding of our voter base that you both possess.

    The line that the Lib Dems are a middle class party would be funny were we not seeming to try and make it a truth.

    “Hong Kong is probably the closest thing to Libertarian state”

    Who wrote this rubbish. If Hong Kong is a libertarian state, then I must be living in Soviet Britain, then?

    Also, if Hong Kong is so successful, why is it suffering from massive economic pressures, severe social inequality and lack of cohesion, and a mass immigration outwards?

    If only I got paid a pound every time some right-wing muppet writes about an East Asian country whilst knowing nothing about it, I would be rich enough to buy Hong Kong before the year is out. This is like when Tories go on about China being the model of capitalist success and the small state, is it not?

    (Moreover, to whoever wrote this dribble, please note the lack of a capital letter in libertarian – seriously, if you are going to bang on about how great something is, at least learn how to write it properly. Capitalising it does not make it ‘cool’!)

  • As for how poorly thought-out this idea is, well, I think the moment I read ‘there is no cost of food crisis’ I just gave up. Considering that many of the cheapest foods that the poorest need to buy to survive have gone by 30% – 40% in the last 5 to 6 years, whilst wages are frozen for most… yes, no!

  • Richard Dean 18th Sep '14 - 10:10pm

    Recent ONS statistics for a consumer prices index are available here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cpi/consumer-price-indices/august-2014/consumer-price-inflation-summary–august-2014.html .

    Using the data give in the downloadable Excel file, prices now are about 16% higher than 5 years ago, in August 2009. They are about 22% higher than in January 2008 is about 22%.

    Recent ONS statistics for house prices are available here:
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/hpi/house-price-index/april-2014/info-hpi-comparison.html

    On average in the UK, the price of a house now is 6.5% more than in January 2008. That’s a lot less than 22%. However, if you live in London, your average house price has gone up 31%, which is somewhat more than 22%.

    So, whether there’s a food crisis or a housing crisis or both seems to depend on where you live. Poor people in London probably have the worst of both worlds – high consumer prices and high house prices.

  • You are not wrong, Richard; however, sadly, as Matthew is able to explain better than I, the poorest in London are also often the ones the rest of the country likes to act as if do not exist.

    Though, if things keep going the way they, they eventually will not exist and London will become an empty shell of its former glory with those that built being replaced by billionaire investors, bankers and hipsters whose parents pay their way for them.

  • The US “Tea Party” started as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama as president. While it did attempt to gather many different forms of dissatisfaction under its umbrella, its catalysing impetus was the election of 2008, its primary complaint has been the presence of a more-or-less liberal black man in the White House, and its overriding goal has been the obstruction of any legislation or policy proposed by President Obama. It has no other ideological unity; it is not libertarian in orientation; and it certainly has nothing “Whiggish” about it. Its profile is closer to that of the organisations of ex-Confederate soldiers who attempted to obstruct the Union forces after the end of the US Civil War.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Sep '14 - 12:51pm

    David-1 (re the “Tea Party”)

    It has no other ideological unity; it is not libertarian in orientation; and it certainly has nothing “Whiggish” about it.

    Sure, but then it’s like UKIP – a way of attracting the “little people” to something which plays a surface social conservatism to get their support against some supposed liberal elitist establishment, but in reality is funded by big finance fat cats and those at its top use the naive support they get from the plebs to push the extremist economic policies which are the prime thing those fat cats want.

    It doesn’t need ideological unity, and it’s better for those running it that it doesn’t have it, because it gets support by pretending to be whatever will attract the gullible into supporting it.

    A good way of thinking of the Tea Party is as a sort of Cargo Cult. This is most obvious when you see some of its members dressing up in what they think is an approximation of late 18th century clothing, and quoting the 18th century American revolutionaries. They don’t have the easy-peasy solve-all line of pulling out of the EU like UKIP, or pulling out of the UK like the SNP, so their easy-peasy solution is to pretend they can adopt a few superficialities from the 18th century revolution, and the clock will be turned back to the imaginary golden age they supposed was there at that time. This sort of nostalgic attempt to turn the clock back through adopting superficial aspects of the past is a phenomenon quite common in nations experiencing decline who don’t want to face up to that decline.

  • JohnTilley

    “the all knowing but anonymous Psi”

    I assure you I am certainly not but I can understand how I could look that way next to people that seem to see nefarious intentions all around.

  • Jenny Barnes

    “Maybe councils could be empowered to compulsorily purchase agricultural (eg) land for development, grant planning permission, and then resell some of it to developers for private development. If done right, that would pay for a lot of the council houses built on the remainder.”

    Why the need to compulsory purchase? They could just buy the land no need for compulsion.

  • Caracatus

    So you complain that you have been misrepresented then you misrepresent me with a very transparent straw man:

    “I am enlighten by your view that there were no slums in the 1930’s.”

    Read again: “Actually it was tried in the 1930s and the criticism was that it was “Urban Sprawl.” but what it was mainly the strip developing of the 1930s Semi’s. Like the house I grew up in and, sorry to disappoint, it was not a slum.”

    So it is there in black and white, the housing built in the 1930s were not slums. Agree?

    “Slum housing largely consisted of Victorian terraced back-to-back properties constructed as a result of mass urbanisation.”

    Oh yes you appear to already know that they slum housing was mainly Victorian and earlier.

  • Mr Wallace
    “I’m sorry if that came across as rude but I stand by it.”
    Don’t worry about sounding rude no one should read tone in to anything written. The important thing is does the argument hold. Far too often people seem to want to tell anyone who doesn’t share their views to leave. The point is too many people don’t appreciate the value of having differing views that can be challenged and improve existing ideas. Too many people are setting in to the idea

    “We’re talking about a group who’s solution to the housing crisis is to simply scrap building regulations and let the market sort it out.”

    But if you think about the argument, if you were to increase the available spaces by reducing restrictions but keep the standards so you get more built but retain quality. Opposing ideas often have something to add, too many people attack the person putting an argument personally rather than address the argument.

    “Clearly if you do that your going end up with slums, slumlords and 100,000’s of families living in those said slums. Whilst this is not the mainstream opinion of any of the political parties”

    But mainstream needs to keep being challenged and questioned or ideas become stagnant. Old ideas that have been discarded should also be reconsidered and potentially reinterpreted to see if there is something new to add.

    The important item is what outcome a policy will achieve not whether it is something that was supported in the past.
    The issue us that there is a shortage of housing in areas where people want to live, it is likely that the shortage is much higher than currently estimated. Some of that solution is likely to be public sector house building some private sector. This argument always seems to descend to retreats to the past when one solution or other was applied, in reality some mix will be needed.

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