Saturday 3 October 2009
Richard Ingrams’s Week: Not all of us are happy with rising house prices
The good news is that house prices are going up again. For the past two years or so, there has been a steady decline. So a house that might have cost £500,000 two years ago might today be worth only £450,000.
But now estate agents and others in the business are making reassuring statements suggesting the decline is coming to an end. There might even be an up turn. What a relief. Houses are becoming more expensive to buy.
And the hope is while the trend is reversed that houses will get more and more expensive as the years go by, thus making it more and more difficult for young couples to buy and get their feet on what is popularly known as the housing ladder. Which in turn will make it more difficult for them to start a family as the only way they can hope to pay off the mortgage will be if they are both earning big salaries.
This again is good news. All the political parties are keen particularly on married women going out to work. Even if they are so foolhardy as to start a family, everything will be done to get mothers back at work at the earliest possible point after giving birth.
But don't let's get diverted by what are unimportant side issues. The goods news for everyone – the Government, the banks, the BBC and, of course, the property owners – is that houses are once again becoming more valuable. So let's all hope and pray that this healthy trend will continue and not be upset by any more financial crises.
Imagine a future without Five (I can)
The deadline was lunchtime on Wednesday. The penalty for failing to meet it looked alarming. But the instructions on how to avoid the penalty were more alarming still.
Such was the quandary into which digital television viewers were plunged when faced with full-page newspaper advertisements inserted by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and others, acting for once in concert.
The orders were to retune our digital TV sets, and unless we met the Wednesday lunchtime deadline we would be in danger, they said, of losing some of our digital TV channels, including even channel Five.
To begin with, it seemed simple enough. "Press menu on remote control." Most of us could manage that without too much difficulty. But after that it began to get more complicated: "Select the first-time installation option sometimes called factory reset, full retune or default settings. Press OK if your equipment asks if you want to delete all your channels. Don't worry, this is normal."
The faceless people who issue such instructions seem quite unaware just how many of us there are who look on a remote control, let alone a DVD player, with feelings of aversion mingled with something approaching panic at the possibility of pressing the wrong buttons.
Call me a coward if you like but the Wednesday lunchtime deadline passed without my making any attempt to carry out the instructions. And now, if those people are to be believed, I am in danger of not being able to watch channel Five. I somehow think I will manage to come to terms with that eventuality.
It's a different story when you look beyond the headline
Anyone seeking confirmation of Robert Fisk's assertion last week that Judge Richard Goldstone was being "pissed on" by the Israelis following his damning report on their recent incursion into Gaza had only to pick up The Times on Tuesday. Here they would have found a prominently displayed piece by the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr Ron Prosor, headed "A farcical attempt to paint Israel black".
I sometimes think headline writers should be more careful about putting words above a piece which tell you all you need to know about it and so save you the bother of having actually to read the article.
In this particular case you knew exactly what was coming. No attempt by Mr Prosor, pictured, to answer the specific charges made not only by Judge Goldstone but Israeli investigators as well – the huge and disproportionate amount of civilian casualties including many children, the use of phosphorus shells, the racist graffiti chalked up by the Israeli soldiers and so on.
No. Much of the ambassador's apologia consisted of an attack on the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned Judge Goldstone's report, for failing to investigate far worse things that were going on in other parts of the world – Somalia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
And unlike many of those other countries, Israel, he reminded us, is a democracy, one with an independent judiciary. All of which is true, though it would have been too much to expect him to remind British readers that those same independent judges must soon adjudicate on the man responsible for the invasion of Gaza – former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Judge Goldstone has accused his government of "committing actions amounting to war crimes" but Olmert is facing charges of fraud, breach of trust and falsifying accounts – of being a small-time crook, in other words.
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