Is the Blairs £27m property empire relevant to public anger about the housing crisis?
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Mar 16 18:23:37 GMT 2016
Is the Blairs £27m property empire relevant to
public anger about the housing crisis?
Larry Elliott and Aditya Chakrabortty debate
whether the ex-PM is responsible for or just the
beneficiary of a British housing policy thats gone badly wrong
The Blairs house in Buckinghamshire. As a
family, the Blairs have a portfolio of at least 10 houses and 27 flats.
Larry Elliott and Aditya Chakrabortty Tuesday 15 March 2016 19.51 GMT
Larry Elliott: Its easy to dismiss them as
greedballs, but as a nation were hooked on property-led growth
A married couple in their 60s have made a killing
out of the property market and used some of the
windfall gains to help their kids on to the
housing ladder. Nothing unusual about that, you
might say: the Britain of 2016 is awash with baby
boomers who have accumulated wealth over the past
four decades and are now passing a chunk of the
profits to their offspring. Except that in this
case, the husband and wife are Tony and Cherie Blair.
The former prime minister and his barrister wife
have built themselves quite a property empire.
Mews homes in central London, buy-to-let flats in
Stockport, country piles in the Chilterns; the
Blairs have a portfolio of at least 10 houses and 27 flats valued at £27m.
The case against the Blairs is surely not that
they are unique in wanting to make money out of
property. Britain is awash with people who bought
a home in the 1970s and 1980s, saw it triple or
quadruple in price, and borrowed against its
rising value to secure themselves a nest egg for
their retirement. If they are guilty of property
speculation, albeit in a different league from
the average buy-to-let landlord, then so are
millions of others. Rather, the charge should be
that during the decade that he was prime
minister, Blair talked a lot about opportunity
for all but bequeathed an economy in which the
gap between the property haves and have-nots
widened so much. Owner occupation levels peaked
halfway through Blairs premiership at 70% in
2002, and have since fallen by five percentage
points. Does Blair share the blame for this? No question he does.
Britain is a small country, with tight planning
controls and a tax system that encourages home
ownership. The combination of restricted supply
and rampant demand means that the trend in prices
is always upwards.The dismantling of credit
controls from the early 1970s onwards has meant
finance has been readily available for those
willing to take a punt. The process has been
simple: find a property, mortgage yourself up to
the eyeballs, and wait. It is a wealth creation
process that requires no great skill.
This is a systemic problem that goes well beyond
the Blairs. Clearly, there is something dubious
about a prime minister presiding over a colossal
property boom and then taking advantage of the
inevitable (if brief) slump to pick up houses on the cheap.
But the modern UK economy has only two settings:
slow growth or property-fuelled growth. In 2012,
George Osbornes solution to a flatlining economy
was to provide incentives to banks to increase
the flow of mortgage lending. This was disastrous
for Generation Rent, which saw the possibility of
buying a home disappear even further into the distance.
But what as a nation are we prepared to do about
it? Impose capital gains tax on the sale of a
primary residence? No. Make council tax more
progressive? No. Return annual housebuilding to
the levels seen in the 1960s? Heavens, no. The
virtual demise in the private sector of final
salary pensions means Britons have become ever
more reliant on property to finance retirement.
The easy bit is to dismiss the Blairs as a couple
of greedballs. The hard bit is doing something
about it. In part, thats because the hollowing
out of the UKs manufacturing base and its
replacement by the bricks and mortar industry is
so well established. In part its because
governments fear that tackling the problem would be electoral suicide.
Aditya Chakrabortty: Blair dreamed up the policy
that forced councils into social cleansing
Who is to blame for the fact that its now nearly
impossible for a young working family to rent or
buy a home in most of Britain? The question is
hardly ever asked, as if the UKs property market
were some sort of natural force, like a tidal
movement or a cloud formation. But for one of the
richest societies in the history of the world to
be unable to house so many of its own people is
not natural at all it is an abomination,
created, approved and preserved by our
politicians. Chief among those politicians
easily on the top three of guilty men and women
responsible for Britains housing crisis is Tony Blair.
It was under Blair that the amateur landlord boom
really got going. It was Blair who sat on his
hands rather than build affordable homes. Blair
was absolutely complicit in the new culture of
Britons using their family nests as cash
machines. He allowed the property bubble to grow
and grow, even while economists and politicians
such as Vince Cable fretted over the bust to come.
As prime minister, Blair couldnt have cared less
for council homes, or the people who lived in them
Having consolidated Britains position as the
worlds leading rentier economy, the former prime
minister has gone on to join its rentier elite.
Blair and his clan have gone into property
speculation, hoovering up home after home into a
massive £27m portfolio. Of course theyre
buy-to-let landlords, renting out flats to
students and key workers across Manchester and
Stockport. Theyre doing what the pater familias
urged voters to do when he was in No 10.
The 1.2m households currently on the waiting list
for council accommodation can thank Blair, too.
As prime minister, he couldnt have cared less
for council homes, or the people who lived in
them. Soon after moving into Downing Street in
1997, he made his first public speech from the
Aylesbury estate in 1997, referring to the
families who lived there as the forgotten
playing no role in the formal economy, dependent
on benefits and the black economy.
Thus did New Labour recast council tenants as
extras in an episode of Shameless. Not only did
he do nothing to stop the right to buy, which has
eaten through public housing stock, but he also
dreamed up the policy whereby councils seeking to
repair their dilapidated flats and houses were
forced to go to the private sector. This was the
policy that has led to local authorities across
London and the south-east selling their land and
their houses to big developers for a song in the
hope of getting some affordable stock back. If
you want to know who is responsible for council
regeneration becoming a synonym for social cleansing, look to Blair.
+44 (0)7786 952037
Twitter: @TonyGosling http://twitter.com/tonygosling
uk-911-truth+subscribe at googlegroups.com
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that
shall not be made known. What I tell you in
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27
Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Diggers350