It must be some months since I rode this hobby horse.
Good news that the government is intending to remove the cap on council building of social housing, but why did they introduce it in the first place. Successive governments have stuck to the view that the solution to a housing shortage is to build more houses and that they wanted to create a house owning democracy. There has been a failure to recognize that there is no point in building houses that people can’t afford to buy. The sale of council houses has created a windfall for those lucky enough to be in a position to buy their house but, that, with the restraint on councils building social housing, has created a major problem for those unable to buy a house. Subsidised social housing is an anathema to many people, it is as though to be poor is always the fault of the poor, “why don’t they pull their socks up and get themselves out of the situation?”. As if it is that easy.
People with an acre or more of land that have succeeded in obtaining planning permission for building have been like lottery winners, overnight they become millionaires. People in a position to borrow money to buy houses, not for themselves but to rent out, have got rich by charging a rent that more than covers the loan repayment, in their aim to get rich they have forced house prices up. Both groups have got rich by exploiting those that have to pay the rent or pay extortionate prices to buy the houses built on the land. Those fortunate enough to own their houses have also benefitted from the housing shortage but it has all been at the expense of those at the bottom of the economic pile. The whole situation is obscene, but governments have sat on their hands afraid to interfere.
Unless much more dramatic action is taken the housing situation is going to continue for years, and most of those desperate for somewhere reasonable to live will continue to be deprived. Lifting the cap on council building will take years to bring any significant change, as will urging developers to build more houses. There are thousands of households paying a high proportion of their income in rent who will never be in a position to buy a house, some who can barely afford to pay for necessities. It is a crime committed by the majority against a minority.
Prefabricated houses of a very good standard can be mass produced at a lower price than conventional building but as long as prices for building land are allowed to continue at present levels profiteers will continue to get rich and the benefits of prefabrication cannot be fully appreciated. Government action to compulsorily purchase land and foster building of prefabricated houses is the only way to end this scandal.
We are now at a critical stage in the Brexit negotiations, and things are moving faster, so what I write here could well be out of date by the time you read it. At the moment the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal is real. There are those brexiteers who would welcome such an outcome, warnings by international economists, bankers, including the governor of the Bank of England, Chief Executives of major industrial concerns et al, that such an exit would be economically disastrous, are sneered at by these people – “Such talk is just project fear” they will say, talk that can be ignored. They are like the people that say “I have made up my mind, don’t confuse me with facts”. Of course it is ‘Project Fear’, there is good reason to be afraid.
Some will say “Don’t worry we will get a good deal because the EU needs us more than we need them.” They base this idea on the fact that over 50% of our trade with the EU is to EU’s advantage, but what they forget is that the EU is much bigger than we are and trade with the UK is only 5% of their total trade, whereas the EU is by far our biggest market.
To introduce obstacles to the flow of goods between us and the EU would cause chaos at the ports and would threaten the jobs of an estimated 200,000 people who are engaged directly and indirectly with businesses that require the easy flow of components across the borders. It is vital that we have a deal that keeps the borders open for the flow of goods between us and the EU and between Northern Ireland and the EU and it would be an act of extreme folly on the part of any government to take action that did not maintain that situation. I take heart from the belief that Mrs May is fully aware of this and will not let it happen. I thought that her Chequers plan was a sensible and clever attempt at trying to square the circle and was disappointed that it received such a rough ride, but, in any event, it was not acceptable to the EU.
The long-term consequences of leaving the EU are not good in my view. Because of the economic size of the EU I think it inevitable that, over time, London will lose its position in the financial world. Investors who were attracted to the UK because of its access to the European market will become disenchanted in time, new investors will be difficult to find and we will slowly become a less significant island off the coast of Europe.
Those who think we will have a bright future free from the constraints of the EU are, in my opinion, deluded.
I believe that there must be many people like me who voted to leave the EU but now realize that it was a big mistake. It is very annoying to me for people to say ‘we had a democratic vote and we voted to leave and that is what we are going to do’ because those same people will speak against a second referendum. Surely, now that we have had a chance to better understand what leaving means, the democratic thing to do is to have a second referendum to give the people a chance to confirm the decision to leave or to change their mind. How can that not be the democratic thing to do with such a momentous decision that is going to affect the lives and futures of the people for decades? I have heard some politicians say that a second referendum would be a betrayal of democracy, a denial of democracy, what kind of convoluted thinking is that? Not to have a second referendum would be a denial of democracy.
Someone told me recently that he was using electric radiators for heating, I asked if they were storage heaters and whether or not he had cheap off-peak electricity and he replied no, but, he said, these radiators are very efficient. I have seen advertisements for electric heaters of various types that are claimed to be particularly efficient.
Such claims are quite ridiculous, all electric heaters are 100% efficient, whether they be fan heaters, radiant heaters, oil filled radiators or whatever. Every watt of electrical energy that goes into the device will appear as heat.
Duxford Air Show
I went with a friend to the last show in September, on Saturday 22nd. I used to be a regular attendee at their shows but this was the first in over twenty years. It was a ticket only affair, which I welcomed, past experience had shown that these events were often over subscribed with resultant traffic chaos. Tickets were reasonably priced at £18 but also available were VIP tickets at £300, VIP treatment included special car parking, reception with refreshments, light lunch and the exclusive use of a marquee and VIP toilets. £300 seemed a bit steep so we settled for £18.
On the day we had a clear run down the A11 but as soon as we reached the A505 we came to a halt, probably 3 or 4 miles from the airfield, and that is where we stayed for the next 2hours, I think the only progress we made was when people gave up and turned around. Needless to say there were many who had probably travelled further than we had and were in need of a toilet, they had to make do with roadside bushes. Whilst we were in the queue it started to rain. The flying display had actually started before we got into the car park.
I do not know why we were stuck in a stationary queue but I might guess that the police gave priority to traffic coming off the M11 in order to avoid tail-backs on the motorway so our line did not move until the flow from the M11 dwindled, this might suggest that anyone going to a flying display there would be best off approaching from the M11.
Once on the airfield we were somewhat dismayed to find that view of the airfield was largely blocked; by the VIP tents that had been erected on the edge of the field, by trade stands and by a temporary viewing stand of four or five tiers erected for BAe Systems. In the few places where it was possible to get to the edge of the field and observe the planes on the ground and taking off and landing, the crowds were about ten deep. Just to add to the disappointment the rain that started when we were in the queue continued relentlessly all afternoon. The restaurant was impossible to enter, many of those that were inside seemed reluctant to come out in the rain, it was possible to get food from trade stalls, if you chose a burger or a hot dog the bun or roll was soon soggy, similarly a bag of chips got wet before you could eat them all. I was quite well protected with waterproof clothing but the water ran off my hat down my neck and I got wet and cold that way.
A pretty miserable day all round.
Naturally we could see the planes in the air, the cloud cover was fairly high, a display by an RAF Typhoon (the Euro-fighter) was truly amazing. Also, what was for me I think the first time ever, I saw the Blenheim in flight. Those were the highlights for me, along with some first world war planes. There were the usual Me109es with the wrong engines that spoil their appearance, but there was one 109f (or 109g) that appeared to have the correct shape and presumably a Daimler-Benz engine, not something you will see very often.