Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The NHS at 65: chaos, queues and mounting costs (Guardian)

What national healthcare in Britain looks like in 10 years' time depends more on the future of politics than on economics, writes Polly Toynbee.

2. How Carney can succeed in his mission (Financial Times)

Even if he can perform no miracles, the new BoE governor may prove a lucky one, says Martin Wolf.

3. Miliband must defeat Labour’s union barons (Times)

Could it look any worse for Ed – losing control of his party to a public sector union that demands an end to cuts, asks Philip Collins.

4. Coup in Cairo is a rude awakening (Financial Times)

The help the region needs is not of the type the west has been giving, writes Philip Stephens.

5. Tory union-bashing may come at a price (Daily Telegraph)

Attacks on Unite could alienate those workers who are also natural Conservative voters, says Isabel Hardman.

6. Forcing down Evo Morales's plane was an act of air piracy (Guardian)

Denying the Bolivian president air space was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world, says John Pilger.

7. Paying for Pensions (Times)

The over-60s have been least affected by austerity, notes a Times editorial. But the triple lock on pensions is no longer affordable.

8. It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most (Daily Telegraph)

Property rights for aid: this could be the most effective anti-poverty strategy in history, says Fraser Nelson.

9. How the unions got Red Ed in a headlock (Daily Mail)

Any Labour candidate for either council or parliamentary elections must now be a member of a trade union, writes Andrew Pierce. 

10. When is a military coup not a military coup? When it happens in Egypt, apparently (Independent)

Those Western leaders who are telling us Egypt is still on the path to “democracy” have to remember that Morsi was indeed elected in a real, Western-approved election, writes Robert Fisk.

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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.