Comment: Jacob Rees-Mogg's plan to scrap stamp duty is a dead moggy
PUBLISHED: 20:00 15 August 2017
The MP wants to do away with stamp duty and tear down tower blocks like Grenfell, but his ideas are a distraction from the housing crisis
Housing had been strangely absent from the Conservative agenda recently, probably because they haven’t been doing much about it.
Housing is a problem for the whole country, but it should be of particular concern to the Conservative Party. Owning your own home engenders a strong incentive to vote Conservative, but the country’s reputation as a nation of homeowners is slipping. Only 64 per cent of English households own their own home, down from 70.9 per cent in the early 2000s.
Generation Rent is aging up into the “Rentysomethings”, a group of not-so-young adults locked out of the housing market and apparently doomed to continue spending large parts of their salary on flash build-to-rent properties. This is also a generation that will struggle to afford children, and a threat to the nuclear family is a threat to the Conservative power base.
So I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a power-hungry Tory to ooze up from the depths and take the stage on property. Jacob Rees Mogg has read the room and realised that the Nasty Party needs to become the Nesting Party.
Off he scuttled to the Telegraph where he called for stamp duty to be scrapped and ‘Socialist’ tower blocks to be torn down. Fighting words from a man flexing his new found Instagram fame.
Rees-Mogg’s attempt to cash in on Grenfell is disgusting. Grenfell was a political event, but that doesn’t make it fair game for the kind of political grandstanding of shifting blame on to a school of architectural thought from half a century ago.
His attempt to demonise post war architecture is the deceased moggy on the table. Yes, the Modernist towers were the “physical embodiment of socialism”, insomuch as they represented a time where architects had ideals about providing social housing for all and the government came up with the goods.
But poor people didn’t burn alive in a rich city because fifty years ago a country delivered on the dream of providing for its people. They perished in terror and agony because of a systematic failure to maintain and grow local authority assets.
Private businessmen grew rich off shilling substandard insulation to backwards engineer energy efficiency and cover up the concrete, but Rees-Mogg wants us to see it as a textbook case of Socialism leading to crumbling infrastructure. Capitalism or Communism, the real problem usually lies with corrupt men who will weave all manner of tangled webs to obfuscate their hunger for top jobs and associated riches.
Tear down towers and build houses with gardens to sell back to their occupants, cries a man who lives in a 400 year old Grade II* listed mansion in Somerset. The desire to own a patch of land and shelter outright is apparently hard wired in to our lizard brains, not a convenient way to socially engineer a voter base.
That’s not to say people don’t want to own their homes, they clearly do. Owning does feel like security, flowerbeds or not. Property is still an asset, as valuable and stable as bullion or bitcoin in the global market.
But the market, despite tell-tale Rees-Mogg’s stiffy for Neoliberalism, does not provide. Look at the homes built by the private sector – miles of shiny tower blocks with the odd tree on a roof terrace on the market for a couple of million, whilst the phrase ‘affordable homes’ has become a hollow punchline.
Rees-Mogg derides the nanny state, which is ironic from a man who, despite having six children, has never learnt to change a soggy nappy and retains a family nanny to deal with the messy business. Scrapping stamp duty is the sort of deregulation he craves, but it’s not going to engender a rash of sensibly priced homes-and-gardens. Building them only to sell them off at a discount hasn’t worked well in the past, either.
The one piece of legislation that does need to be repealed is the local authority debt cap so councils can build again, but he seems to have overlooked that part. Funny, that.