Clones. They're old news

I have been surprised by all the fuss about cloning. Clearly, the scientists who replicated a sheep and who are now talking about the possibility of a multitude of Spice Girls are unfamiliar with executive home builders. These housing titans are light years ahead of the scientific fraternity. They have been cloning homes for decades and the fruits of their labour can be found dotted around the suburbs of metropolitan communities up and down the nation.

The reason why executive home builders have kept so quiet about their scientific breakthrough is because of the conflict cloning has with the corporate marketing strategy. Executive homes are always described as exclusive. Unfortunately, a home cannot be cloned and still be exclusive. No one would want to live in an executive clone.

What the builders have done is to disguise their scientific genius by attempting to differentiate between each property.

The advertisements run something like this. "Luxury Living at Affordable Prices. XYZ Homes are proud to announce the opening of their prestigious new development - The Beeches. Now you can enjoy the splendour of your own exclusive executive home. Choose from the luxurious Kingsbury, the spacious Queensbury or the glamorous Royale. XYZ - the first name for the last detail making your dream home a reality".

Closer examination will reveal that the Royale is a slightly smaller version of the Queensbury which, in turn, is a slightly bigger version of the Kingsbury.

Apart from the cloned exterior (red brick, grey slate) and cloned interiors (cream paint, green carpets) executive homes have a lot of other attributes in common. The most striking is that executives do not live in them. Executives live in splendid isolation; they do not live in an XYZ four-bedroom, three- bathroom (one ensuite) Queensbury home in close proximity to another 20 or so non-executives.

It is generally easier to get out of Wormwood Scrubs than it is to get into a new executive home development.

Executive home developments are meccas for mini cab firms, home delivery pizzas and the Round Table Christmas fund-raiser. This is largely on account of most executive home developments being close to nothing other than more executive home developments.

I wonder though what the executive home will do for the social fabric of our society. In streets which were built before the executive clone was invented there is a glorious and aspirational hierarchy which develops. Certain streets are better than others and, indeed, certain streets have parts which are better than other bits of the same street. Executive homes, on the other hand, are egalitarian. There is no difference between a Kingsbury and a Queensbury, the development is designed to ensure each home has exposure to equal amounts of sunshine, and there is very little difference between the Beeches development and the Oaks development a few miles away.

Does this mean that in a century's time the house as a measure of social standing will have disappeared entirely? I sincerely hope not. It is snobbery which drives the property market. It is one of the few manifestations of wealth which is not regarded as course or common. It is perfectly acceptable to invite someone to your house. It is not acceptable to invite them to inspect your collection of Personal Equity Plans.

Politicians have expressed their nervousness about the spread of cloning, and on the experience of the executive home their concerns are justified.

It has it place, but its value to society depends in the end on the extent to which it is used.

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