Your leading article highlights the great divergence between London property prices and the rest of the UK (4 February). This indicates that London real estate is in a bubble, and the reasons are low interest rates and global risk.
As nominal interest rates globally are nearly zero, meaning that global investors shift their portfolios away from government bonds (that are making a real-terms loss) towards riskier events that hopefully will yield a return. Second, as investors are looking for a safe haven to hold their investments, in a time of uncertainty, they are putting their money into London real estate that is seen to be relatively safe.
When interest rates start to rise and the world recovers from recession, investors will take their money out of London property and prices will start to plummet. This is dangerous for many individuals taking on large mortgages to pay overinflated house prices, threatening them with negative equity in the future.
What is it about the British and house “ownership?” Ever since the 1980s Conservative administration promoted the “property owning democracy” renting your house has been seen as failure, which is nonsense.
Most people don’t own their houses; they own a mortgage, and now that jobs for life have been replaced by short-term contracts they have the constant worry of repossession by the real owner because redundancy has struck or interest rates have soared and monthly repayments can no longer be met.
For very many people renting would be a much better option, particularly if the sector were properly regulated. Tenants are much more mobile than owners, and aren’t saddled with as large legal and other fees, and can therefore more easily move to where the jobs are. They probably have more disposable income after housing costs are paid and can therefore give their families a better quality of life and can probably afford to save for retirement.
The rental sector should, however, be carefully regulated and should be more diverse than now. At present only two competitors operate in the sector: local authorities/housing associations, which are subject to control from Whitehall; and private landlords, whose wish is to make the maximum profit for the minimum outlay. What is needed is a third competitor who is socially responsible, perhaps co-operative societies, mutual building societies and the like, who would be sensitive to local needs and could help to keep housing costs down for both buyers and renters.
Gay marriage brings out the Tory rebels
The real story about the gay marriage brouhaha in the Tory party is the willingness of Tory MPs to defy their leadership. Mr Cameron, having capitulated to them over the issue of a referendum over Europe in exchange for a promise of future co-operation now finds that he is again in conflict with those very same MPs who had, a few weeks ago, promised their loyalty.
Mr Cameron is facing revolt after revolt from what John Major called “the bastards”. Every time he finds an answer, they change the question, and will continue to do so. Instead of running the country he is engaged in trying to stop this disgusting band of little islanders and anti-gay fundamentalists from destroying his government. That is his tragedy. That there is no real political alternative is ours.
With the country in the financial mess it is in, surely our politicians should be focused on the important issues, like how to get everyone in a job, cutting the deficit and ensuring people have food, heat and housing. Not wandering around mulling over whether people in a homosexual relationship should be allowed to marry or not.
It is time our MPs focused on the real issues in society and did something about them.
Chair, Lincoln Liberal Democrats
Will success in Parliament this week see the gay lobby home and dry and satisfied? Not on your life.
Espousing David Cameron’s idiosyncratic understanding of marriage, their next clamour will be for an absolute right to have children. The whole thing is a muddle. Should things proceed, the scope for unintended consequences is enormous, far surpassing those of the 1967 Abortion Act.
South Cave, East Yorkshire
Resonance of anti-Semitism
Peter Robb doesn’t “get it” about commentary on Israel (Letter, 31 January). Indeed!
Gerald Scarfe, not anti-Semitic himself, nevertheless found himself using an anti-Semitic trope, one of great historical pedigree in Europe, and currently flourishing in parts of the Arab and Muslim world. It says that Jews (with big noses) use non-Jewish blood for their own malign purposes; before it was religion, now it tends to be the State of Israel. That resonance – unintended though it be – was there in the eyes of very many (Jews and others) who are willing to put things in their historical contexts.
The State of Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people according to its own complex constitutional settlement. So David Ward MP was wrong to think that Israel is run by “the Jews” or even “Jews”; Arab and other citizens work in its legislature and courts.
The Rev Patrick Morrow
The Council of Christians and Jews,
Christ-killing? The blood libel? An accursed race? Clearly, Howard Jacobson (2 February) thinks he is living in the 12th century. He is 900 years adrift.
That sort of stuff went out in popular enlightened post-Reformation northern Europe, Scandinavia and America in the 18th century and probably before that. I have never been questioned by taxi drivers on such allegations – “What do you think of them Christ-killers, then?”
Now, let’s look for James IV
The finding of the remains of the English king, Richard III, under a car park in Leicester, is indeed fascinating and has naturally drawn much media attention.
This year sees the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden on 9 September, when King James IV led an invading army southward into Northumbria, only to be killed with many of his nobles and common soldiers.
A body, thought to be that of James, was recovered from the battlefield and taken to London for burial. The embalmed body however lay unburied for many years at Sheen Priory in Surrey and was lost after the Reformation. It is alleged that the king’s head was removed by a glazier and eventually buried at the church of St Michael’s Wood Street in London. The church was demolished in 1897 and a number of the bodies were disinterred from the churchyard and reburied at Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey.
Given the interest shown in King Richard III, the last English king to die in battle, and given the timing of the Flodden anniversary, it is time for a renewed interest in the discovery of the resting place of the last Scottish king to die in battle.
After prison, a poor prospect
As a tutoring assistant at a local prison, I read with interest Nick Hardwick’s piece (2 February) on preventing prisoners reoffending. It seems that a part of the problem is inadequate support for prisoners after release.
In the entry-level literacy and numeracy classes some of the tutoring assistants are inmates themselves. Chatting to one of these assistants last week, I asked him about his plans after release. To me he seemed skilled in the tutoring role and I suggested training to be a teacher.
His response was that he would never find work as a teacher because of his criminal record. Ironically, he told me, he would not even be allowed to teach in prisons. So, what would he do instead, I asked. His reply: “Sell drugs.”
Who can vote for independence?
Peter Moody (letter, 30 January) is concerned about expat Brits not having a vote in a UK referendum on EU membership. Jim White (1 February) worries about expat Scots who cannot vote on Scottish independence. Perhaps the Welsh saying “Car dy wlad a thrîg ynddi” will help to clarify this question: “Love your country and live in it.” If misty-eyed expats want to vote on the future of their native countries, they should live in them, or leave such vital decisions to those who do live there.
Contrary to Gavin Miller’s opinion (letters, 3 February), all Scots with British nationality will be affected by the result of the independence referendum, wherever they happen to be living. It is my nationality that will be being decided, and I should have a voice in that. Or is Mr Miller happy to become English overnight?
During a visit to Northern Ireland in the 1960s, my father and I went to a cinema in Strabane to see the film Sink the Bismarck! As the ship finally disappeared between the waves, the whole audience stood and cheered. And as the final curtain came down, everyone stood to attention until the National Anthem had finished, which even then would not happen in England. I learned a lot that night about Loyalism in Northern Ireland.
Stockport, Greater Manchester
Might have been
I’m not really interested in Paul Gascoigne’s descent into oblivion, but I did have my head turned by your back-page headline: “A different era of minders may just have saved Gazza” (4 February). So, there’s hope for the boy? Apparently not. What your headline meant to say was that a different era might have saved him. In other words, he’s doomed. Does grammar matter? I think it may.
Geraint Hughes (letter, 2 February) has forgotten that under Article 42 of the UN Charter the Security Council has no right to authorise military action unless non-violent means of conflict resolution “would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate.” I don’t blame him. The Security Council has long since forgotten itself.
Movement for the Abolition of War, London N4Reuse content