A game to hammer home how broken London house prices are

That'll be £150,000, if y… oh, you're in London? Make it £1.5m.

Viral upstarts Us vs Th3m have found a shortcut to the heart of every British person with a game about house prices. No, really, it's fun, go play it. (I scored 75 per cent). The game looks up the prices of ten houses sold in June 2013 from the land registry, and then gives you a Google Street View image of the property and the town (or London borough) it's in. From there, you just have to guess how much it is, to the nearest thousand pounds.

Two thoughts:

  1. Most people playing the game are commenting on one thing and one thing only: London house prices are unreal. For the most part, you can play the game with a rough rule of thumb: a slightly dingy looking semi is around £150,000; scale up or down based on that. But if you get too comfortable, and don't check the location, you'll find yourself being out by a factor of ten, because that dingy looking semi was actually round the corner from Harrods and sold for £1.5m.

    Look at it from the other way, as someone who just about knows what London prices are, and Paweł Morski provides the strategy:

    Divide by 3 for midlands, 5 for North.                                                                                                              

    You may think that "London is expensive" isn't big news, but it seems like a lot of people who thought they knew the score are being caught out.

  2. But I have a feeling that when the sticker-shock wears off, the other thing people will start chatting about is that the internet lets you do things which are kinda creepy. You did, after all, just find out the prices of ten strangers' houses based on photos taken by a car which has shot every street in Britain. Are people actually fully used to that reality? Or have we just not yet caught up with the new normal?
Photograph: Us vs Th3m

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.