The first social media Olympics: the highlights

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

This has been the first mass social media games. We’ve seen the dark side, with the Tom Daley troll incident, but you’d have to say the overall effect has been pretty positive. The public have been able to send the athletes untold numbers of supportive messages, I’ve been able to tell Ian Thorpe I love him at least five times a day, and above all, there’s been some really great Olympics-related stuff shared around.

Here’s a compilation of all the odds and ends I’ve not been able to include this week. Some will be old hat, some won’t...enjoy.

Excellent collection of games photos.

New Zealand’s goalkeeper has a VERY bad day.

Extreme volleyball skills.

What would the Olympics be like if everyone could take as many drugs as they wanted?

The compelling story of Gabby Douglas, the first African American woman to win all-around gold in gymnastics.

The aftermath of Ryan Campbell’s efforts in the rowing make for staggering viewing.

The Olympic score cards turn innocent scenes into something, well, less innocent.

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

So your brothers want an Olympic ticket. How do you settle it?

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has a wonderful Twitter bio. So does Usain Bolt, for that matter.

Ryan Lochte special: he’s very, very, very bad at interviews but he has a great dog and oh – that’s just nasty.

Funny name corner: someone from Mean Girls is competing. And so is Quentin Bigot. Whom I’m told bears no relation to this man.

The less said about this photo the better.

BoJo making an arse of himself, take two.

Nike advert: not quite an Olympic link, but great nevertheless.

There’s really only one way to display your Gold medal.

Yaping Deng – table tennis champ and all round impressive woman.

Which film star inspired Chris Hoy to cycle?

Granada's swimming coach Holly Bonewit-Cron talks to her father in the US using a tablet computer in the Olympic Village. Photograph: Getty Images.

Alan White's work has appeared in the Observer, Times, Private Eye, The National and the TLS. As John Heale, he is the author of One Blood: Inside Britain's Gang Culture.

Getty
Show Hide image

I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.