Diary: How Dyno Rod Shapps cleaned up the market

Andy McSmith
Wednesday 23 November 2011 01:00

Grant Shapps, the Tony Blair lookalike Housing minister, had a new nickname – "Dyno Rod" – awarded to him by David Cameron at yesterday's Cabinet meeting on the grounds that Shapps is the man who has unblocked a stagnant housing market with his indemnity scheme that will make newly built homes available for a deposit of five per cent of the price.

The Labour Party and others have criticised the scheme for not going far enough, but yesterday's Daily Mail took the opposite line, claiming that first-time buyers will be in danger of owning a home the value of which will immediately depreciate, leaving the taxpayer to pick up part of the tab when new homeowners default. They base this prediction on the fact that newly built homes have lost value faster than older buildings since 2007. The Mail assumes that this trend will continue.

But it is known that during housing booms there exists what is called a "new home premium", which means that new properties fetch a higher price than older homes of equivalent size because buyers assume they will need less repair work. That premium vanishes during a recession, which is why new homes lose their value faster than older ones. So, if "DynoRod" Shapps's policies succeed, the owners of these new homes could be getting a bargain, as their homes rise in value faster than everyone else's.

Humphrys hails the Lansley loop

Paul Stephenson, the political adviser to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, was a little surprised to receive a call at around 7.15am from John Humphrys, top inquisitor for BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Moreover, Humphrys was shaking with laughter. He had just read an account in yesterday's Independent of how hospital patients in England are being treated to a message played in a continuous loop on their bedside screens, featuring a welcome message from Mr Lansley. Surprisingly, perhaps, Mr Lansley agreed to be interviewed about it, live, while travelling on a train.

When Bercow blew her Labour hopes

Interviewed in the current issue of Total Politics, Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker, confesses she may have blown whatever chance she had of fulfilling her ambition to be a Labour MP on the day she posed in nothing but a sheet. "I don't say my chances are completely over," she added – and then, as if to make sure they were, to the question "What's your favourite gadget?" she replied: "I was going to say my vibrator...." The magazine records that she giggled, and then, when asked if the reply was off the record told them they could go ahead and publish it.

Germany – home of Britain's best gags

Of all the films that ought to have been made but never were, one of the funniest would have been The Day Off, written 50 years ago as a vehicle for the comic legend Tony Hancock by his scriptwriters, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Hancock turned it down because he wanted to star in something more "international".

The script disappeared into the private archive that Galton kept at his home in the grounds of Hampton Court, where it was retrieved this summer by the writer Christopher Stevens, who has just published a biography of Galton and Simpson.

The film is now to get its first airing, a "rehearsed reading" at the London Comedy Film Festival in January. Speaking at a lunch organised by The Oldie magazine yesterday, Mr Stevens hailed Galton and Simpson as "the men who invented the sitcom" on the grounds that every British sitcom of any quality follows to a template set by Hancock's Half Hour, which ran from 1954 to 1961. But Galton, who was sitting at my right, whispered in my ear that this was "rubbish". They got the general idea by listening to AFN Stuttgart during the war, he added. And Simpson, sitting to my left, tells me that the first joke they sold, which contained a non-PC reference to the size of Jane Russell's bust, earned them £5. That was pretty good money in 1951.

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