All the stupid things people have said today

And I’m looking at you, Malcolm Rifkind, and you, John Redwood.

There's nothing like a political thriller to get the pundits out on College Green selling their wares to the lowest bidder and spouting a fury of nonsense on rolling news. Somebody has to fill those long and languid hours, I suppose, as everyone runs around chasing anyone in a suit who looks like he might be negotiating something.

Rumour has it that a Sky reporter found himself in Caffè Nero filming a negotiation over the price of a blueberry muffin and yelling to the camera, "It's looking good for a deal, people! BREAKING NEWS!!!!!" Well, not quite, but almost.

Anyway, there have been a couple of real hype-whippers today, stirring up as much trouble as they can, scaremongering in that delightfully cool-headed way that slightly redundant right-wing commentators will.

First up, and definitely the prizewinner, is Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

The idea that the two parties that suffered most in this election, that were rejected by the electorate, that in the case of the Labour Party lost a hundred of its seats, should put together an illegitimate government, this is the Robert Mugabe style of politics . . .. It's exactly what Mugabe did, you know -- he lost the election and scrabbled to hold on to power.

You know, he's got a point. Whenever I look closely at Labour and the Lib Dems, all I can really see is Mugabe-style politics. All those violent bullying tactics, murder attempts and house demolitions. I can't believe no one has made the comparison before. That's searing political insight in action, that is.

Next: the Conservative MP John Redwood, who said that the current situation is "a disaster for British democracy".

It's all that some of us feared about hung parliaments. There's complete chaos and confusion.

How is it a disaster for British democracy when what we are experiencing now is precisely its outcome? How could you have prevented this hung parliament that you so "feared"? (Mental image: Redwood sitting up in bed with his duvet round his ears, whimpering and repeatedly counting seats in his model House of Commons.) Well, by getting a clear majority. WHICH YOU DIDN'T.

Of course, it's the news channels' fault, really, isn't it? If you interview someone 43 times about the same subject within half an hour when there is actually nothing new to report apart from a series of wayward and hazy possibilities, you are bound to get some interesting interpretations.

Solution? To pass the time, set up Adam Boulton in a series of wrestling matches with suitable opponents (first: Ann Widdecombe).

Special offer: get 12 issues of the New Statesman for just £5.99 plus a free copy of "Liberty in the Age of Terror" by A C Grayling.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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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.