David Cameron’s Help-to-Buy poster girl attacked for buying own £145,000 home through her estate agency firm
The Tory spin machine suffers critical backlash online for failing to properly research the star of Cameron's comical Help-to-Buy photoshoot
Last week, we bought you the most comically staged photoshoot of David Cameron’s political career, which featured a series of awkwardly posed pictures of the PM and his poster girl of choice, Sharon Ray, pointing at stuff in trees and laughing at tea with her infant daughter.
The shoot was all part of a new campaign for the government's Help-to-Buy scheme, which aims to provide assistance to those struggling to get on the property ladder because they couldn’t raise the necessary deposit.
"Sharon & Maisie show me their lovely new home; just one of the families helped onto the housing ladder by #helptobuy," Cameron tweeted shortly after their meeting.
"@david_Cameron so lovely to meet you today!!! Maisie and I had a great time!!!!! #helptobuy," Sharon tweeted back.
So far, so embarrassing. Until, of course, the Tory spin machine struck upon another clanger: their single mum of choice is actually a successful estate agent who bought her £145,000 flat through the firm she works for.
Ray has been employed at the aforementioned Enfield estate agency in Southampton for almost eight years, and she is currently the director of sales. It is not known whether she or the company benefitted from any sales commission following her purchase.
However, that isn't the only aspect to Ray's life that raised questions over her suitability for the scheme. Having split from her estate agent husband six months ago, she is now a single mother. But she also drives a £33,000 convertible BMW.
"This is about helping people to achieve the security and stability they want of owning a flat or a home of their own," Cameron said, talking up the new scheme following his stint as a catalogue model.
"We are not helping people to buy flats or homes they cannot afford. We are helping people who do not have wealthy parents, who cannot get a big deposit together and helping them to realise their dreams."
There is, of course, no suggestion that Ray was not eligible for the scheme or has acted wrongly in any way. In fact, the scheme helps home owners looking for property worth up to £600,000. Simply that, given the value of her company car and existing home, she enjoys a salary healthier than most.
But those facts have done little to quiet the critics online, who attacked Ray for being exploitative, and lambasted Cameron for "faking" the whole campaign.
Writing anonymously via a blog in a post that quickly became viral, one critic went as far as to post pictures of Ray's car, claiming that she had hidden the fact she was an estate agent, lied about being single, and that she didn't even own the house she showed Cameron around.
"Whether on finance or outright cash it's a good indicator of a healthy income... the kind of income which doesn't seem compatible with people unable to raise a deposit and desperate to buy their first home."
The blog led several angered members of the public and MPs to take to Twitter to voice their concerns and, quickly, the whole debacle went viral.
Qu: Why aren't media making more of this story? Dave misled millions! #HelpToBuy needs to be exposed for what it really is.. A scam!cameronsfollys (@cameronsfollys) January 6, 2014
The mystery blogger also made the mistake of listing Ray's address. Pretty soon, her property was crawling with journalists demanding answers. She posted the following via her Twitter account (for which she goes by the surname O'Donnell), which has since received so much trolling, she's made it a protected profile:
Sharon Ray is forced to defend herself online following criticism over Cameron's Help-to-Buy campaign
And the general public were not alone. Business Secretary Vince Cable expressed concerns that dolling out taxpayer-backed loans would lead to another housing bubble. The Labour Party, too, noted that the scheme did not address the issue of housing supply.
A Number 10 spokesperson has since insisted that Sharon Ray was exactly the sort of person who the scheme was aimed at helping: a hard-working, single mother, who could afford mortgage repayments but could not stump up the full funds for a deposit.
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