While the right-leaning part of the press continues its relentless Labour-bashing, reinventing yesterday’s manifesto launch in the most creative, and generally insulting, ways imaginable, the focus now shifts to the Tories, who have obligingly trailed one policy in which they, and their press pals, have clearly set great store, because it brings back memories of a happier time, when they were in power.
Remember her? The Tories are hoping you will
While the routinely sycophantic Telegraph proclaims “We are the true party of working people” (well, Young Dave and his jolly good chaps do employ so many of them), the Times gets straight to the point. “Right to buy for 1.3m families” it tells. Ah, the return of right to buy. The Mail is ecstatic. “Right to buy: a new revolution”. The Express has the real reason, though, with “Maggie’s right to buy dream is back”.
There is much use of the word “Maggie”, as witness the Mail’s “A new right to buy revolution: 35 years after Maggie's visionary policy, Cameron pledges property dream will become reality for 1.3million more families”. That would very much depend on 1.3 million tenants wanting to exercise whatever right the Tories confer on them. And the reality is that neither the Mail, nor the rest of the Tory cheerleaders, is being honest with readers.
In the 1980s, right to buy was a very good way of increasing economic activity through ramping up the stock of debt - without the public sector having to get involved. Those buying took out mortgages, then loans to improve and personalise their properties. DIY chains prospered; the service economy expanded. Self-employed builders, plasterers, joiners, plumbers, decorators: all benefited.
And the housing sold had been in local authority hands - in the public sector. It’s not so easy today, as much of that social housing has passed to housing associations. As David Orr, CEO of the National Housing Federation, has pointed out, these are invariably charitable organisations who have borrowed money to build and improve homes, and who depend on the revenue stream called rental income to service their debt.
Forcing them to flog their portfolios at a discount would screw them over royally - unless the Government sees them right. And how much will that cost? You’re right - we don’t get to find that out. And how about that replacement of homes sold on a one for one basis? Well, since 2012, it’s not happened: Jason Beattie at the Mirror has pitched figures of 17,205 sold versus a paltry 820 built. That’s not good enough.
[UPDATE 1715 hours: the Tories' measure has been awarded the thumbs-down across the political spectrum: at Londonist, Rachel Holdsworth tells that the plan "Would be a disaster for London". Julia Hartley Brewer, writing at the Telegraph, calls the proposals "Economically illiterate and morally wrong".
Sky News' Faisal Islam reports the National Housing Association's calculation that just 220,000 of the mooted 1.3 million tenants would be able to get mortgages. Politics Home has pointed out that London's occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson gave the idea the thumbs-down, explaining that it would need "massive subsidies".
Jim Pickard reports the CBI as warning "Extending the Right to Buy scheme doesn’t solve the problem of boosting the supply of affordable homes". This supposedly key commitment has not survived until the evening rush-hour, with threats of legal action being mooted if housing associations are forced to sell by a future Government. Someone at CCHQ is not thinking all of this through]