29 October 2011

Oh dear

The first signs of unravelling:

Here:
Eurozone leaders were left sweating last night after China played down expectations that it would quickly make a much-needed cash injection to the EU bailout fund.
And here:
Fear made a swift return to the eurozone yesterday as Italy faced record borrowing costs in its first attempt to tap the markets since European leaders came up with new plans to rein in the sovereign debt crisis.


Quote of the day

Yes, it's that great egalitarian, Mr Cameron:
"Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl [as their first child], that girl would one day be our queen," Cameron said. "The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic – this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become."
But what kind of modern country continues to insist that the monarch be a member of the Church of England (regardless of whether he or she has married a Catholic or a muslim or a hindu)?

The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate

What a strange thing to do.  The Guardian reports:

The British Empire Medal (BEM), described as the working-class gong, is to be revived as David Cameron reverses one of John Major's signature reforms that was designed to create a classless society.The prime minister, who is consulting the Queen on the change, hopes the revived medal will be awarded to people involved in voluntary work.Downing Street, which has been looking for ways to revive the prime minister's big society initiative, believes that people involved in the voluntary sector are often overlooked in the current honours system. The prime minister hopes that people who are not considered senior enough to receive an MBE or OBE will be able to receive a BEM.

So workers in the voluntary sector are to be fobbed off with what are clearly lower grade gongs.  If Mr Cameron wants to honour more workers in the voluntary sector, why not give them more MBEs?  Or is the Big Society to be stratified by class and seniority?

28 October 2011

We're all in this together (part 31)

Now calm down, tell me what's upset you.

It's those greedy fatcats.  It's just been announced that the average FTSE-100 executive director plundered a 49% increase in their remuneration last year.

And you think it's disgraceful?

Damn right.  We peasants are struggling to keep up with inflation, while they are positively rolling in it.

I recognise that the uplift in the remuneration of the boss classes does not necessarily reflect company performance, but you must take account of the need to recruit and retain the best possible talent.

They never say that about the workers.  With us, it's that you need to work harder and longer or lose your job.

That is because you proles are instantly replaceable, preferably by machines.

But how can you justify such massive increases for the bloated plutocrats?

Pay peanuts, you get monkeys.  Now return to your miserable hovel and starving children and allow me to peruse the Porsche catalogue in peace.


27 October 2011

Berlusconi = dirty old man?

Just a thought ...

So the FTSE-100 opens 95 points above last night's close.

Would it be cynical of me to wonder if it will come back down again in a day or two when the Grand Euro-Deal unravels (as it surely must)?

What would St Paul have said?

It must be a day for editorials.  I approved of this one in The Independent:

It is not unreasonable for the protesters, and indeed the wider public, to ask whose side the church is on. In initially extending a welcome to the occupation, then withdrawing it, the Dean and Chapter at St Paul's resemble nothing more than a disgruntled householder or inconvenienced road-user. Nor is it the fault of the cathedral, or the Anglican church, that "health and safety" has become synonymous with a culture of excessive caution and a cipher, for many, of Britain's ills. But to cite "health and safety" as a reason for closing a mighty and much-loved building seems at once petty and an overreaction.The protesters were not inside the cathedral; they were, and are, camped outside. Their tents do not even constitute a major obstruction to visitors. Public hygiene may be a concern, but it does not appear to worry tourists overmuch, who are flocking to see the camp – and boosting local businesses, even as they find the cathedral doors locked. The protesters have a valid point to make; it is not incompatible with tourism.It also has to be asked whether it was wise for St Paul's to complain about the financial losses it was sustaining from the closure. Of course, the upkeep of such a major architectural monument is expensive. But many will feel that there is a distinction between a house of worship and a money-making enterprise and that, where substantial entrance fees are imposed, this line risks being crossed. It is not only the protesters who might be tempted to object: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Only Canon Fraser, the guy who welcomed the protesters, told the police to butt out, and is now threatening to resign, emerges from the affair with credit.





A resolution

I faithfully promise that I will never again use any of the following metaphors:
1.  taking a haircut;
2.  kicking the can down the road; and
3.  using a big bazooka.
There you are.  Happy now?

More can-kicking

I might have some sympathy with this Guardian editorial:
So the true test of this Brussels summit and the inevitable next one, as well as the G20 in November, is not, perhaps, whether they free Europe from its troubles in one mighty bound. It is, rather, whether the measures emerging from all this tortuous process can sufficiently minimise and contain the impact of the explosion of over-accumulated debt on economic activity and growth across Europe. That's why yesterday's latest effort to Europeanise the Greek debt write-off matters. It's why the Europeanisation of bank recapitalisation matters. And, most important of all, it is why the strengthening of the EFSF bailout fund matters so much too. The test of the summit is whether it enables Europe to take the punishment and remain standing. Muddling through may not seem much of an achievement. But, if it works, it is a lot better than a heroic disaster.
Well, yes but ...   What if there is a tsunami on the way?  Is it not time to erect a powerful sea-wall, rather than simply moving a few metres up the beach and hoping that the tidal wave will die down a bit?

26 October 2011

The Summit, somewhat

OK, it's started.  But don't get too excited.  I've been to these EU gatherings (not a summit of course, but they don't differ radically from those at a lower level).

Remember, there are 27 participants (not counting the IMF, the Commission and various odds and sods).  These are heads of government and they will each want their say.  Allow 10 minutes for each and you have already absorbed more than four hours.  Then there's dinner to get through, say another two hours.  And, then, assuming something has been agreed upon (fat chance!), the non-euro states depart and the Eurozone states go into conclave.  Of course, it is now after midnight, by which time the leading participants are thoroughly pissed off at the failure to make progress.

Do you still wonder why they are incapable of doing more than kicking the can down the road?


25 October 2011

Music of the week

Remembering the bad times ...


Kicking the can down the road

The cancellation of Wednesday's EcoFin meetings means that the Euro-summit tomorrow evening is doomed to reach nothing more than agreement on a vague outline framework of the kind of package needed.  No member state will be committed to anything and further meetings will be necessary to thrash out the details.  And that's the optimum outcome; it could be much worse. The Germans (and the Finns and the Dutch) won't subsidise the Club Med unless they sign up to austerity squared, while the latter will firmly resist being sent down the black hole where Greece finds itself.

The effect on the markets will not be a happy one.


24 October 2011

For me, it's a puzzler

Maybe I'm a bit dim; or am I being obtuse?  The Guardian reports:

Salmond confirmed on Saturday, in his keynote speech to the SNP conference in Inverness, that the referendum, planned for the second half of the five-year Scottish parliament, will consist of two questions.
On Sunday he gave more details. The first question would be "a straight yes-no question [on] independence," the SNP leader said. Alongside this would be "a second question, in the same way as we did in 1997, in which we'd offer a fiscal autonomy option". He added: "I'm not for limiting the choices of the Scottish people, I leave that to Westminster."

Now let us suppose that, on the first question, the Scottish electorate votes 51% to 49% in favour of independence and that, on the second question, votes 70% to 30% in favour of devo-max.  What then has been proved?  Should independence be abandoned on the basis that it commands less support than devo-max?

And it is no use comparing it with 1997.  Then the choice was between devolution or devolution with tax-raising powers - it would have been inconceivable to have failed to obtain a majority in the first question but to have succeeded in obtaining a majority in the second.


22 October 2011

Don't waste your schadenfreude on me!

Hey, it's raining a bit; well it's chucking it down actually, thunder and lightning accompanying.

But I can't complain - it's the first time in seven weeks that I've had to wear long trousers.  Went down to the supermercado to get the makings for a bolognese sauce (which is now cooking happily on the stove).

Stopped for a beer on the way back and the bar manageress (rather unkindly, I thought) poked fun at my trusty yellow plastic poncho.  It's nothing like a giant condom, honest.

No, you're not getting any photographs.

Money-grubbing


Slightly distasteful, I think.  The Guardian reports:
The starting pistol for British firms to pursue contracts in Libya has been fired by the new defence secretary, Philip Hammond, who urged companies to "pack their suitcases" and head there to secure reconstruction contracts. 
As Nato announced that it plans to wind up operations in Libya, Hammond said that great care had been taken during the campaign to avoid destroying critical infrastructure. 
"Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya," he told the BBC in an interview. 
"I would expect British companies, even British sales directors, [to be] packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can," said Hammond, who replaced Liam Fox as defence secretary a week ago.
I suppose that, for this government, there always has to be a bottom line.

21 October 2011

Please Mr Postman

I wrote and sent a letter this week. (It was to a rather special young lady.)  But I doubt if I will do it again.  The Independent explains why:

How much?! The price of a second-class stamp could soar by about half, to 55p, under rules proposed by the Royal Mail's nice new regulator, Ofcom. As for a first-class stamp, don't even ask. There will be no limit at all to what the Mail can charge. Shocked headlines proclaimed that we will see the biggest rise in stamp prices in 171 years.
This is the price of dragging the Royal Mail into the 21st century, fulfilling the exacting mandates of this year's Postal Services Act, including the commitment to a six-day delivery, while at the same time fattening itself up for privatisation.

Booze-ups in breweries?

Let's see if I've got this straight.  They were going to have a summit on Sunday when they would reach agreement on a package of measures to resolve the problems of Euroland.  But now they have discovered that they will not reach agreement on Sunday.  So they will hold another summit on Wednesday where they will definitely reach agreement on the package.  Or maybe not.

I think it's called muddling through.

19 October 2011

18 October 2011

The fine art of whistle-blowing

It is never easy, telling bosses what they do not want to hear.  Not that journalists care; The Guardian reports:

The top brass, senior diplomats, MI6 - they all knew what Liam Fox and his friend Adam Werritty were up to. They did not know everything that enterprising journalists from the Guardian and subsequently other newspapers have disclosed. But they knew that Fox and Werritty were pursuing their own priorities and interests - in the US, Israel, Iran, and Sri Lanka. The question which the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, should address in his report, expected on Tuesday, along with how Fox breached the ministerial code of conduct, something the former defence secretary has in effect admitted already, is why didn't they blow the whistle.
The journo in question then admits:
The former chief of defence staff Air Chief Marshal (now Lord) Stirrup, and Sir Bill Jeffrey, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, are reported to have expressed their concerns some time ago.

So what happened after this whistle-blowing?  Well, nothing.  No 10 didn't want to hear.  And note that these two luminaries are now former luminaries.  But The Guardian goes on to put the boot in: 

It is "inconceivable" that Ursula Brennan, Jeffrey's successor, did not know what was going on, says one well-placed official. How much we do not know. What is clear is that the affair has demonstrated that officials seem frightened to reveal their anxieties - to speak truth to power. They seemed cowed.

Aye well, what would you do, if your career depended on it, and when you already know that Mr Cameron is not in the least interested?



17 October 2011

I used to be decisive but ...

I used to believe, with some confidence, that my fellow citizens would resist the blandishments of Fat Eck on the little matter of Scotland's independence and that they would firmly return a resounding negative when it came to a referendum.  But now I'm not so sure.

It's not just the ComRes poll announced over the weekend which showed that even the English were unperturbed by the prospect of Scottish separation, although in many respects this was quite a remarkable outcome which will no doubt have its impact on the inclinations of Tory MPs south of the border - why should they fight to maintain a bloc of Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster, if the good people of Chichester and Henley and Tatton are not bothered about Scotland going gently into that good (or bad) night?

Then there is the question of North Sea oil or at least the oil lying west of Shetland.  If BP is prepared to invest all those billions and if the oil is going to last until 2050, then the prospect of Scottish independence becomes that much less scary.  I know that it's more complicated than that, but you can almost hear Mr Salmond asking the electorate if they really want to allow the UK Treasury to fritter away - once again - the economic returns from oil on unemployment benefits south of the border.

As for the Labour Party, the only party in Scotland which might have been capable of resisting the SNP, it's not looking good.  So far, the leadership campaign has yet to throw up anyone known to the Scottish population, let alone with the ability to take on Salmond and his acolytes.  Nor do the voices from down south in the form of Mrs Curran and her "crack team" offer any consolation; after all, they're there and not here.  And they are not exactly likely to set the heather on fire.

So, with apologies for being somewhat depressing on a Monday morning, we will await the referendum with trepidation.  As usual, it will probably end in tears.


 

15 October 2011

Quote of the day

From The Telegraph (here):
Speaking in his constituency yesterday, Mr Letwin said: "I was walking around dictating responses and I did not want the paper to weigh me down. 
It's a tough life being a politician.  You get up early every morning for a walk in the park to dictate your correspondence (doesn't everyone?) but you can't move for Mirror photographers.  And what are bins for if not to put waste paper in?


13 October 2011

He doesn't get it ...

Sad, almost.  The Guardian blog records:
As Severin Carrell mentioned in his piece on the devolution debate in the Guardian earlier this week, ministers are also making an attempt to woo Scotland too. Cameron's visit [to Aberdeen] may be part of that drive, but he started his speech by saying that he would be flying the Welsh flag over Downing Street on Saturday because they are the only British team left in the rugby World Cup. That's because, in the UK, when one team drops out, we all support the other one, he told his Aberdeen audience. The remark was met by silence. Then he had to assure them it was a joke.
I'm not laughing ...

Wee Duggie is back!

No doubt, just dropping by to chivvy the troops.  The Herald reports:


ONE of Labour’s key strategists will tonight warn that the Scottish party has become too backward-looking and negative.Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, who co-ordinated last year’s General Election campaign, will also say Labour needs to raise its sights to produce a more positive “One Scotland” vision.
His remarks will come in a lecture at Stirling University, in which he upbraids the SNP for focusing too much on its “gleeful assertions of difference” rather than the more positive message of co-operation, unity and diversity.


It is of course only a day or two since the appointment of a new Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.  Mrs Curran is not of course renowned for her positive and constructive approach, being a West of Scotland machine politician par excellence.  But Mr Alexander presumably considers that she may be able to play a more enlightened tune on that weary old Labour fiddle.

12 October 2011

Quote of the day

Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian (here):
What if Fox gave the full apology he has so far withheld – would that be enough? No. Only in politics is the mere act of saying sorry deemed to be sufficient punishment. You don't see rioters walk away from court simply because they had the grace to put their hands up. Nor can they evade a jail sentence by regretting that they had allowed "the distinction between legal and illegal to be blurred". Even Wayne Rooney gets a three-match ban for blurring the distinction between his studs and an opponent's leg.
Too damn right.

11 October 2011

Music of the week

The late great Kirsty:

Football, bloody football

After the glorious 1-0 thrashing of the mighty Liechtenstein, tonight we get to play with the big boys of Barcelona and Madrid.

The boss-man is optimistic:about his players:
"They won't be overawed by the occasion," said Levein. "We have players who play week-in, week-out in the Premier League and we have players with self-belief and those two things help.
As Oscar Wilde said, the basis of optimism is sheer terror.

Headline of the day

From The Independent (which sees the brakes being put on):
UK at risk as OECD signals acceleration in pace of global economic slowdown
Not sure how you accelerate a slowdown but I think we know what they mean.

Displacement activity

Distasteful populism from Mr Cameron.  The Independent reports:


Foreign nationals could soon have to take a test on British history before they are granted a UK passport after David Cameron set out moves to toughen up requirements for citizenship....
 "There's a whole chapter in the citizenship handbook on British history. But, incredibly, there are no questions on British history in the test," he said."Instead you'll find questions on the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe and the benefits system within the UK. So we are going to revise the whole test and put British history and culture at the heart of it."


This from the expensively educated Prime Minister who thought that the Americans were our World War II allies in 1940.

10 October 2011

It's the way I tell them

People sometimes ask if I benefit financially from this blog.  The answer is that I am not dependent upon any transactional behaviour in relation to the blog to maintain my income.

What?  You don't know what that means?  Liam Fox will explain ...

They must think we're idiots

So it's all sorted, is it?  City AM records:

A highly anticipated meeting yesterday resulted in a bland statement by German chancellor Angela Merkel that politicians “are determined to do the necessary to secure the recapitalisation”, which the IMF has said will cost around €200bn (£172bn). 
Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy claimed they are in “total agreement” but said they cannot answer questions about any of the crucial technical details of any deal until November’s G20 summit. 
Both Merkel and Sarkozy denied that there is a despute over how the region’s bailout fund should be used in the bank rescue. “Germany and France want the same criteria to be applied, and criteria that are accepted by all sides,” said Merkel.
How long do they think that will hold?

07 October 2011

Reading between the lines?

The Guardian is being very careful with this story:

Liam Fox was joined by a close personal friend and self-styled adviser when he met senior Sri Lankan ministers during an official visit this summer despite claiming that Adam Werritty had never accompanied him on government business.

Fox has insisted that Werritty, who has distributed business cards describing himself as an adviser to the defence secretary, is not part of his political entourage, but these fresh disclosures are likely to raise further questions about the nature of his role in the defence secretary's inner circle. The Guardian has already revealed that Werritty, who was Fox's best man, visited the defence secretary on 14 occasions in little over a year at the MoD's HQ in Whitehall, prompting Labour to demand an inquiry into whether there had been any potential breaches of national security.

Just in case we did not catch the general drift, the article includes this paragraph:
Werritty, 34, has accompanied Fox on several trips to Sri Lanka, including one in 2009 when the pair reportedly met the president, prime minister and foreign minister. He lived with Fox in a flat near Tower Bridge before the defence secretary married Jesme Baird in 2005. Werritty was a guest at Fox's 50th birthday party at his official Whitehall residence last month.
At what could they possibly be hinting?


Running it up the flagpole

The Guardian paraphrases the Chancellor's economic policies:

Osborne: Some people have said I have no plans for economic growth. This is not true. It's just a nuisance my plans aren't very good and I've got us stuck in the worst depression since the 1930s. But don't panic. I have a new cunning plan to stimulate the recovery by making it much easier to sack people.

Conference: What? Did we miss something while we were asleep?

Osborne: Let me explain. By allowing employers to fire hundreds of thousands of full-time staff we are creating a business environment that will encourage them to take on several dozen part-time casuals.

Conference: That's brilliant! How come no one else thought of that?

Osborne: And that's not all. Oh no! As you may know, I was totally opposed to quantitative easing while I was in opposition so for this reason I now propose to introduce credit easing ...

Conference: What's that?

Osborne: I'm not entirely sure but I'm told it's yet another way of repackaging debts so they appear like assets on the balance sheets. But don't worry about the details. Because I haven't worked them out and by the time I have it won't really matter that the policy is bureaucratically unworkable because I'm only announcing it as Dave told me I had to say something that made it look as if I have a plan.

If only this were not a reasonably accurate representation ...


06 October 2011

RIP

From The Guardian obituary of Bert Jansch, surely one of the musical greats of our time:

Jansch, whose forebears had come from Germany in the 19th century, was born in Glasgow but the family moved to Edinburgh, where he attended Ainslie Park secondary school. He worked, briefly, as a nurseryman, spending his early wages on a guitar. He sought lessons at the Howff folk club, wishing to emulate the guitar style of the American Big Bill Broonzy. Soon, Jansch had become resident unofficial caretaker at the Howff, spending much of his time developing his playing skills, with the Scottish singer Archie Fisher as a significant influence.

In the early 1960s, Jansch graduated from playing for his own pleasure to performing for an audience. He was one of the first guitarists to understand and then interpret and popularise Davy Graham's guitar solo Anji. At the time, his personal, self-composed songs contrasted with the usual traditional or political repertoire of folk singers.

And here is that Anji, which - like so many other guitar-playing students in the late sixties - I desperately sought and failed to master:






Quote of the day

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian is on splendid form:

It was the Always Look On the Bright Side of Life speech. The economy may be crucified, choking to death in the burning heat, but David Cameronhas a message for us: "When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble, give a whistle!" (Not the words he used, but what he meant.) We know that all politicians believe you have to be an optimist to win votes, but this was crazy. The worst things were, the more hopeful we should be. He for one was fed up with "can't-do sogginess". It was time for us all to stop sitting down and to start standing up.

As well as standing up, we have to be marching forward. We face a time of challenge, but that only makes it a time of opportunity! We should dry ourselves off, get on our feet and stride forward. (Have you ever tried striding backwards? It's impossible. You'll be arse over tip in moments.)

He marched forward on to the lectern with the possessive insouciance of a hoodie swaggering on to his sink estate. He's stopped doing the speech without notes, and had it up on two tele-prompters, one left and one right, so it looked as if he was umpiring a match at Wimbledon. (I can't have been the only member of the audience tempted to walk up – sorry, stride – and yell: "You cannot be serious!")

It was rough luck that the latest figures showed the economy was in an even worse state than we thought. How did he deal with it? He completely ignored it. ("If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten.")


Or, as noted elsewhere in the paper:
now is not the time to give in to despair; it is the time for blind optimism ...

05 October 2011

Quote of the day

Easy for him to say. The Independent notes:
Mr Cameron will say: "The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.
I wonder if he has ever been in debt? Does he have any idea of the financial difficulties of ordinary people? Does it not occur to him that we would pay off credit card debts if we could afford to? So why does he trot out these glib sayings?


Here for the beer?



I see that the McEwan's and Younger brands have been sold on from Heineken to an English brewery based in Bedford. Och well, the beer was never up to much anyway.

04 October 2011

Music of the week

It's Emily and Amy:


Making a fool of herself

It's not every day that the Home Secretary is comprehensively proven to have told porkies within hours of making the claim:

May told the conference she would amend immigration rules to restrict the ability of illegal immigrants and foreign criminals to resist deportation by invoking the right to a family life under theHuman Rights Act. This incorporates rights enshrined in the European convention on human rights (ECHR).

May illustrated what she said were the problems with the legislation using cases highlighted in the rightwing press. "The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – I am not making this up – he had a pet cat," she said.

OK, so she got it wrong (see here); and it wasn't even an illegal immigrant. More seriously, she must know that amending the immigration rules will have no effect whatsoever on the human rights set out in the Human Rights Act and on the ECHR.

Shoddy, very shoddy.


Not a cunning plan



Credit easing - now there's a thing. But it seems half-baked somehow. The Guardian tries valiantly to explain:

George Osborne and the Treasury are still trying to work out exactly what their version of "credit easing" looks like but it is likely to involve buying corporate bonds – IOUs issued mainly by big companies – rather than bonds issued by the government (which is what the Bank of England's "quantitative easing" is).

Several possibilities are being floated. Bonds could be bought directly in the £180bn corporate bond market. Buying bonds issued by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) directly is less feasible as they don't really exist. Instead banks could package small company loans and overdrafts into so-called securitisations which could then be bought.

The Treasury could ask the Bank to buy them directly, or it could create a "special-purpose vehicle" to buy them.

The key question is how would the money feed through to businesses? It seems Osborne is trying to avoid the Treasury making direct loans. Instead, by taking loans off the banks' hands, the Treasury hopes lenders will be willing to take on more risks and lend to firms that might otherwise be turned away.

But then most of what Slasher Osborne touches turns to dross. I suppose we must give him credit for recognising that Project Merlin (remember that?) has failed miserably and that something different must be done.

03 October 2011

Deeper and deeper into the mire ...

From The Telegraph (here):

Greece was yesterday reported to have missed the deficit cutting target set for it by the EU and the IMF as part of the terms of its bail-out. According to Reuters, the Greek budget deficit will reach 8.5pc of GDP this year, missing a target 7.6pc.

An emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers will today meet in Luxembourg to discuss the progress of Greek reforms that are necessary to secure the next €8bn tranche of bail-out money. Greece is to unveil new austerity measures.

How much austerity can a nation cope with?

02 October 2011

Tory panic?

Is Cameron once again leaping before looking? The Independent reports:
In an attempt to diffuse the row over planning reform, the PM is to announce the release of thousands of hectares of disused public sector, mainly brownfield, land to build 100,000 new homes, creating 200,000 new jobs by 2015. Developers would be allowed to use a "build now, pay later" scheme, by paying for the land only once the homes were sold. Mr Cameron pledged "the most ambitious growth plan that we could possibly have".
Is there any evidence that house-building is being restrained by shortages of available land? Not according to The Telegraph of 14 September:

The National Trust estimates the total land bank with planning permission to be around 330,000 plots.

The figure is based on research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which found that the biggest developers last year held land with planning permission for 281,993 homes.

Industry analysts say that many companies have added tens of thousands more plots to their stocks over the course of this year.

Bovis, one of the biggest developers, said earlier this month that it had bought 1,571 “consented plots”, and was buying another 2,500. Ministers say that England needs around 230,000 extra homes a year to meet demand. But according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), only 124,000 new homes were completed last year. At that rate, the developers are sitting on more than two years’ building land.


Secondly, are property developers the kind of people that the Government should be making special financial deals for? Are they not building houses because of a lack of resources? Far more likely seems the proposition that in the current financial climate there is a lack of demand for new houses.

In all the circumstances, Cameron's latest initiative looks a bit loopy ...