Rowan Pelling: Oh, Mervyn, you're far too late

Share
Related Topics

The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, is taking us to task. He says that the property rush can't go on; indeed, that we're heading for a slump. Oh Mervyn! Would that it were so. That we could return to the days when a civic figure gave the public a stern dressing down and his words of wisdom became a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the respect in which he was held. And that the lion lay down with the lamb and that the Daily Mail cared more about the starving millions in Sudan than a quarter of a percentage point hike in interest rates. As long as the supply of desirable homes (ie not the £5,000 semi on some northern town's most depressed street that is "Britain's cheapest house") is outstripped by demand and interest rates remain low, the housing market will remain buoyant. Spookily, scarily buoyant, like finding yourself in zero gravity.

No metaphor is more fraudulent than the "property ladder", unless you are thinking of a ladder where all the bottom rungs have been hacked off. Homeowners would be better depicted ascending towards the stratosphere in a series of hot-air balloons and Zeppelins while the rest stand earthbound, gazing dejectedly at the disappearing specks.

From the window where I write, at home in Cambridge, I can see a two-bed semi where a sale fell through a month ago. It's now on the market again, only £20,000 dearer. And theoretically I should be pleased, should see it as a sign of my own increased wealth this side of the road. But all I can think is that none of the four people I employ can afford their own home, and now they're even further from it. The recent sale of my mother's house, following her death last year, is a particularly vivid example of the continued insanity of the property market. Mum bought the tiny cottage in 2001 when she retired as a tenant publican, and could only afford to do so after two windfalls from building societies (which was ironic, as she fiercely disapproved of the conversion of mutuals to plcs and had voted against the proposals). The cottage was the cheapest property in my home hamlet of Toys Hill in Kent but was, even then, far beyond the reach of the kind of agricultural worker who had once occupied it.

When we put it on the market in June, the estate agent valued it at nearly a quarter of a million pounds - a flabbergasting price for a cramped rabbit hutch of bricks and mortar. A perverse side of me hoped that the estate agent was wrong, that no one would pay such an absurd price. In the event, an impassioned bidding war broke out and the cottage sold for a sum I dare not put in print. My siblings and I were left holding a peculiarly middle-class bouquet of suppressed glee, guilt and disbelief. True, this is the only inheritance the five of us will ever receive and my mother worked herself to the bone to gainsay it. But this only illustrates that the exercise of social morality can prove a low priority for even the saintliest of souls when you're trying to secure your offspring's best interests.

If a bleeding-heart, left-leaning polemicist such as Will Hutton apparently enjoys wealth based on the buy-to-let market, then what hope is there for the rest of us? No hope whatsoever, when the Government lacks the political balls to put into law the restraints that their feckless citizens can't bring themselves to muster.

We are told that Gordon Brown is exploring ways to provide financial assistance for those unable to afford their own homes in preparation for the next election manifesto, but how on earth can he do this without administering the vile medicine of a "property gains tax"? But, hey, why do something socially just when you can be popular? So much easier to rush out some facile, soothing legislation that tackles the most widespread social evil of our times: lottery jackpot-winning rapists. ("Please, Mr Blunkett, why do good things happen to bad people?" "I don't know, sonny. Ask Mr Mandelson.") The rapist in question has only profited from other gamblers. But when the mortgage brigade gamble on the property market, they profiteer from an ever more disadvantaged underclass. It's time someone asked which speculation is the more immoral.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...