John Prescott Housing Strategy

Thursdays wouldn't be the same without a Boris Johnson D T comment to chew over ... Under Prescott's demolition plan Ringo Starr's home looks set to be pulled apart along with many other terraced homes in the North, while rabbit hutch style homes are to mushroom in the South.
Now Prescott's bulldozers are coming for Penny Lane It is a policy that defies logic ...the economic map of Britain looks like a swelling tear drop, getting ever fatter at the bottom; and to hell with local democracy or the environment
Maybe there was something going for the yellow submarine idea after all.... Go to Liverpool, Prescott, and say sorry We all knew Labour was a government of barbarians. We knew they cared nothing about history. But are they so spiritually impoverished that they are prepared to insult the Beatles? Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64? sang the twentysomething Beatles; and look what happens when Ringo Starr attains that age. How does the Labour Government propose to show its respect to him and his band, which must surely rank among Britain's greatest cultural contributions to the 20th century? It is destroying his house. It is a fine terrace house in the city of Liverpool, a city that has no equal as a centre of culture. The birthplace of Ringo - the man whose voice immortally informs the world that he can get by with a little help from his friends - is a place of pilgrimage. It is a lodestar for tourists across the world, and deservedly so. And how is Ringo's first home treated by his friends in the Labour Party? In an act of urban desecration unseen since the days of the Luftwaffe, it has been designated by John Prescott as one of the 400,000 houses to be destroyed. And where will this mayhem take place? Across the map? Oh no: that is to miss the stupefying snobbery of this New Labour Government, and the treachery of Prescott to his regional origins. It is only in the North that Prescott has unleashed the wrecker's ball, heedless of the consequences for our Liverpool heritage. Strawberry Fields has already been closed because of vandalism; and now Prescott's bulldozers are coming for Penny Lane. It is a policy that defies logic. It is not as though Labour believes we have too many houses in this country. On the contrary, this same Prescott recently announced that, as a nation, we were so short of houses that it would be necessary, over the next 20 years, to construct another 640,000 in the South-East, with 200,000 going on greenfield sites. The policy is philistine, expensive and environmentally disastrous. On the one hand, semi-sacred northern terraces are to be flattened, when it would be cheaper and more sensible to renovate them in a way that many potential residents might like. And, with the other hand, Prescott waves the green flag to the developers who want to turn the South-East into a great homogeneous mass of roundabouts, multiplexes, out-of-town shopping centres and ribbon development. But there is one thing worse than the illogicality and the brutality of this policy; and that is its complete refusal to take account of local wishes. In both cases - the harrowing of the North, the concreting of the South - Prescott is using his new anti-democratic regional satrapies to force his will on the local population. The people of Oxfordshire have been told they must accept the plonking of about 2,500 new houses every year, with 40 per cent of them going on greenfield sites. These quotas have been set by the South-Eastern Regional Authority, based in Guildford. With all respect to Guildford, a fine town, we in South Oxfordshire feel no sense of fiefdom or fealty towards its regional quangocrats. We do not understand how they came to have this authority over our elected politicians; and we do not understand how we may remove them from office, since they seem to have simply appeared, by Prescottian prestidigitation. The fact that they take ever more decisions, of ever greater political importance, is a source of increasing friction and despair. As for the occupants of the terrace houses of the North, they are not all so lucky as to live in a kind of Hovis advertisement. Some of the terraces are boarded up and infested with drug dealers. But there are a great many happy inhabitants who keenly resent the decision by regional government to go for the £500 million bung that goes with the Prescott demolition plan, and it seems most unfair that their voices are not heard. So we have a plan that is symmetrically barbaric to the North and South, illogical and anti-democratic. Why is the Government doing it? We are told that it is because of a "market failure". The price of houses in the South is unbearably high, because there are too few of them, and, following the laws of supply and demand, the Government believes it can cause the price to fall by building hundreds of thousands of new houses. Houses in the North are dirt cheap, and it is presumably the intention to push up values by reducing the quantity. The question is whether it is really the business of government to skew the market on this colossal scale, and whether Prescott is right to encourage this Stalinist resettlement of populations, from north to south. The Treasury thinks of Britain as a machine for generating taxes, and it has made a utilitarian calculation that it can maximise tax yields if encourages the development of the South-East. With the assistance of Prescott and the House Builders' Federation, the Treasury has decided to assist the process by which the economic map of Britain looks like a swelling tear drop, getting ever fatter at the bottom; and to hell with local democracy or the environment. This policy ignores the possibility that, if central government stopped interfering, we might see an acceleration of the recent phenomenon, by which high prices in the South have been driving people back up North, and thereby pushing up values there. Look at the East End of London, throbbing with yuppies, fighting over architectural features that they find in skips and restoring the slums with pride and money. Why does Prescott assume that people might not do the same in Liverpool? Because, deep down, he assumes that people just don't want to live there. That is the only conclusion one can draw from his amazing decision to knock down Ringo's house: that he thinks it is not good enough. Well, that sounds like an insult and, if he takes my advice, John Prescott should go to Liverpool, in person, and apologise.

31 thoughts on “John Prescott Housing Strategy”

  1. We have been hit so hard in the south by house prices, we have struggled to come up with the ridiculous sums of money needed to purchase a modest home and now prescott wants to reward us with negative equity. And then what? we cash in our chips for a cheap house in the idyllic north only to find that they are now priced out of our reach.

  2. One thing that the government seems to have forgotten about in their desire to build 200,000 more homes in the South East, is the availability of water!
    It is the driest part of the country and reservoirs are getting lower. Do we have enough water to cope with even more homes?

  3. > Liverpool, a city that has no equal as a centre of culture. The birthplace of Ringo

    Good grief, I know Boris shouldn’t have permitted Liverpuddlians to have been run down in the _Spectator_ editorial, and making amends is a fine thing, but isn’t this going a bit far, Melissa?

    “No equal”, by golly! Are you including, say, Venice here? John Ruskin must be spinning in his grave.

    http://www.lancs.ac.uk/ug/fisherm/

    And if music is to be the yardstick, since when did the Beatles stop being entertainment – very good entertainment, I’ll grant – and start being high culture? Are they supposed to be putting Henry Purcell (born in Westminster) in the shade?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Purcell

  4. well, it’s good to try and make the point isn’t it ol’ m8 Michael – re tremendous virtues of Liverpool and its people?

  5. “It is not as though Labour believes we have too many houses in this country. On the contrary, this same Prescott recently announced that, as a nation, we were so short of houses that it would be necessary, over the next 20 years, to construct another 640,000 in the South-East, with 200,000 going on greenfield sites.”

    I would suggest that Prescott said we were short of affordable houses in the *south-east*, and that saying “There’s empty houses in Liverpool” rather ignores the fact that it would be a very long daily commute between Sefton and Reading. Boris your geography teacher would be appalled.

    (This is setting aside the example of house prices in Henley which are obscene right now. Even with the salary that my large ego, errr, brain demands saving enough for a deposit is a long slog. It’s funny how the Thacterite policy of home ownership has mutated along with house prices into the fact of own your own house if you bought 20 years ago, otherwise your house will be owned by a private landlord.)

  6. Good heavens , anyone been watching todays news? People crushed at IKEA and Prince Charles getting hitched ..again. Whatever next? Confused cheerleader bearing pom poms found on ski slopes in Europe ? he he he he.

  7. Leaving aside the difficulty of commuting between Liverpool and Sefton (the solution being of course that the government should invest in Liverpool’s economy so that people move there and work there, not move there and keep the job in Oxfordshire), this is yet another example of bonkers wrongheaded thinking from the current bunch of megalomaniacs, and the sad thing is that come the next opinion poll, people will still say, in droves, that they’re going to vote them back in next time! The mind boggles.

  8. Kay – you are a one – got to join us on the cheerleading circuit !!!

    On the Liverpool – Sefton debate, not sure that Boris is suggesting that people should commute that distance

  9. Since we are always told that terrorists are out there waiting to destroy London (no point in destroying Birmingham, it wouldn’t make the news), why does every government persist in trying to make people live and work there ? Surely we should be spreading the work & influence around the country.

    Or does the threat only exist during Home Office questions.

  10. I concur. Perhaps the bulk of economic activity in the UK should be more evenly shared out, so Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham get some of the action that London and the South East is hogging right now. We’re too centralised and that’s always unhealthy for a democracy. Decent, attractive housing in the north might just be the solution, luring business from the over-heated South East to the underused North. Renovate, don’t annhilate.

  11. Its all about the money, people prefer to live down south because the jobs pay more. If I could earn the same kind of cash up north I’d beetle over there in a minute (although if they demolish Ringo Starr’s house that could sway my decision ) and that brings us back to the North/South divide debate which they’ve been banging on about forever and yet seemingly done precious little to sort out.
    Maybe if Boris upped sticks and resettled in Liverpool we’d all follow him there? what you think Melissa?

  12. Kay

    I’m totally with you on the North v South debate that has been ongoing through the ages.

    Yes, a lot does revolve around money. Less income and less costs too up North – and perhaps fewer distractions. Here in London too much is thrust in our faces the whole time and we are made to feel that we have to wear the glitziest outfit and have the snazziest car around to ‘be with it’. I just feel like escaping to the Welsh Valleys at times and forgetting all this pressure-pot existence. I’m a bit of a latent home-bird, I guess *swings legs * Yes, a little cottage nestled in the hills would be my panacea for all ills – with a good log fire, a horse in the field, and abundant beautiful scenery all around.

    Of course if life shifted up to Liverpool – and if Boris and his family ran an empire from the Liverpool Docks and made it more an epicentre of the UK – then that would be a great catalyst for the regeneration of the city and create great inward investment and employment opportunities for the future. Of course that would mean a lot of re-training and getting into the Liverpudlian dialect: as in lots of friendly “how are you duck?” “ok looorve”

  13. Backing Blair and Charlie

    This is hilarious: The ‘Backing Blair’ website. The introduction is like something from a seventies sitcom, very catchy. I wonder how long before Boris links to this from his blog, his latest article was about Prescott and, amusingly, Liverpool. In…

  14. Michael – I should be careful with your prejudices if I were you. Mozart and Shakespeare were low culture once. And don’t go comparing Purcell to Lennon and Macartney unless you know what the comparison’s based on.

    Yours in a huff.

  15. A fine article, Boris. And an insane policy that will do nothing to ease the madness in the housing market. We’re all too greedy to let house values drop, anywhere.

    Just bear in mind what developers do if you ever come to power, OK?

  16. Brilliant counterstroke on the part of The Blues: use the North-West as Shadow Cabinet meeting place. That should upset the clueless wasp biting walrus’s plans to inundate the lowlands of the S.E.with thousands of short term housing units ;(global sea levels rising).
    It will hopefully not be too long before this would be vandal is gone for good, and before the house prices reach Heaviside layer( for younger readers, the ionosphere) altitudes.

  17. Hmm. I’m not convinced that Florence, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris etc. need to start packing up their museums and closing their theatres, concert halls and operahouses quite yet. [I always found the Beatles rather banal – but you are not allowed to say that, are you? After all they made a lot of money!]

    But housing is a curious, economics-defying matter. . . .

    Has anyone compared urban population density in different European countries to see how efficiently land is used? My impression is that population density is low here, due to the number of small, detached buildings and the extraordinary number of gardens.

    My preference would be for protecting the countryside to the maximum extent possible, while encouraging more efficient use of residential land, even if that meant fewer people having their own garden.

    [Written from ” a little cottage nestled in the hills . . . with a horse in the field, and abundant beautiful scenery all around” – in Melissa’s words – but unfortunately no log fire.]

  18. As for the Bettles. I’d rather have the Rolling Stones any day of the week.

    But as for John Prescott and housing. When ever I hear these two words in conjuction I always become seem to think of Play School: ‘ And so childern which window are we going to throw the Dep PM out of today.’ You might need a crane for this though.

  19. > Michael – I should be careful with your prejudices if I were you. Mozart and Shakespeare were low culture once.

    If you believe that you’ll believe anything.

    > And don’t go comparing Purcell to Lennon and Macartney unless you know what the comparison’s based on.

    I was basing it on the worth of the output.

  20. “But as for John Prescott and housing. When ever I hear these two words in conjuction I always become seem to think of Play School: ‘ And so childern which window are we going to throw the Dep PM out of today.’ You might need a crane for this though.”

    Or a trebuchet.

  21. Simon –

    I went along to Vote-2005 and put in

    >massive support for the best MP – Boris!!

    quess what? it came up twice, so now he’s got double my support ! oh well~~~ could be worse ;D

  22. Michael – thought that might happen. Alright. I made a sweeping statement about Mozart for which I apologise. I wasn’t speaking from a position of knowledge. But I do know about Shakespeare and he quite emphatically wrote for everyone who would listen and was enjoyed by every social group. Ditto Dickens, while we’re at it.

    As for ‘basing it on the worth of the output’, exactly what measure are you using to make that rather lofty judgement?

  23. Just to let you know, that campaign, mentioned above, is now successful.
    Type “f**kwit” (with the stars removed and replaced, of course) into google and hit the “I feel lucky” button.

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