Norman Tebbit is confusing the coalition with the Tories

It is Tory ministers, not their Lib Dem counterparts, who are responsible for the "omnishambles".

Close but no cigar, Norman Tebbit

When you say:

This dog of a coalition government has let itself be given a bad name and now anybody can beat it…The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently

…you make the mistake of confusing "the government" with "the Conservative Party".

You are not alone in this error. Most Tory backbenchers seem to spend much of their time bemoaning the fact that Lib Dems are hanging around, preventing them from implementing an unpleasant right-wing agenda. I suppose it’s second nature, when you view yourselves as the natural party of government, to forget that you didn’t win the last election.

But take a look at all the examples of why the sobriquet "omnishambles" is being bandied around so (for want of a better word) liberally at the moment. In the past week, when there has been a sequence of good pieces of economic news, the agenda has been dominated by the "energy-policy-that-never-was" , "plebgate", and "the great train snobbery".

In fact, take a look at the 34 U-turns the government has made to date. Thirty three were performed by the Tories. The 34th – Lords reform  - may have been announced by Nick Clegg, but we all know that’s down to Conservative mismanagement too. And it will lead to the 35th – boundary reform – which will cost the Tories dearly at the next election. Another cock up.

That’s without picking up on the stuff the Tories have managed to get away with. My personal favourite is that the PM managed to appoint a new Transport Secretary, apparently forgetting that her west London constituency and its proximity to Heathrow may cause a few issues. So, just 11 months later, he moved her out – and brought in an aviation minister whose constituency sits next to Stansted and who is an avowed opponent of the third runway at Heathrow. Well done, Mr Cameron, top work.

And that’s before we even start on the Budget….

The Lib Dems may have done many things in government that have proved unpopular - as much with the rank and file of the party as with the country at large. But the one charge you can’t level at our representatives in Westminster is incompetence. The Tories have that field all to themselves.

Norman Tebbit – we’re certainly not all in this together.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Liberal Democrat Conference.

David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg walk through the Aldermere Housing Development. Photograph: Getty Images.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.