We Tories are in a state of disbelief about Jeremy Corbyn

It is not just that he has next to zero support among mainstream Labour MPs in the Commons; it doesn’t matter that he has rebelled against the party leadership ever since he has been in the House. Indeed, it doesn’t matter that he sometimes identifies the right problems – low pay, underinvestment in infrastructure, or whatever. It is his solutions that are so out of whack with reality.

This is a man whose policies are way, way to the Left even of the last Labour leader – Miliband – a man who in the end was resoundingly rejected by the electorate for being too Left-wing. Jeremy Corbyn is a bearded version of Ken Livingstone (I think they even go to the same tailor for their vests). He would take this country back to the 1970s, or perhaps even the 1790s. He believes in higher taxes and a bigger deficit, and kowtowing to the unions, and abandoning all attempts to introduce competition or academic rigour in schools – let alone reforming welfare.

Jeremy Corbyn takes 53% of support in new poll
Candidate Polling
Jeremy Corbyn 53
Andy Burnham 21
Yvette Cooper 18
Liz Kendall 8

He is a Sinn Fein-loving, monarchy-baiting, Israel-bashing believer in unilateral nuclear disarmament. It is nonsense to compare him to Michael Foot, who had been at least a Cabinet minister and before that a distinguished campaigner against the pre-war appeasers. This is a man who, for more than 30 years, has made a political career out of being explicitly and avowedly on the Spartist Left. He is a frondist, an inhabitant of the semi-Trot margin, an unrepentant lover of oppositionalism. Never in all his wildest dreams did he imagine that he might be leader of what has been – until this year – one of the major parties of government; and now he is having greatness thrust upon him.

We watch with befuddlement and bewilderment that is turning all the time into a sense of exhilarating vindication

How have the People’s party engineered this extraordinary horlicks? There are four groups of culprits. There is the Miliband regime, as mentioned, which not only came up with the deranged rules of the contest – by which, at one stage, the power to help choose the next Labour leader was handed to my old friend, the Conservative penseur Toby Young. Mili and co also shifted Labour so much to the Left that they managed to give a kind of spurious legitimacy to the Corbyn agenda. Miliband adopted wholesale the Livingstone playbook of state-enforced price freezes and rent controls and other attempts to buck the market.

There is a sense in which Corbyn is explicitly the heir of Miliband – and it is notable that Ed has kept a low profile lately, as if he realises the enormity of what he has done. The next group of culprits are all the New Labour old guard: Alastair Campbell, Mandelson, and above all Mr Tony himself – they have been cloth-eared in their response, hectoring Labour supporters who still haven’t forgiven them for the Iraq war; and as for Blair’s suggestion that Corbyn-backers “get a heart transplant”, it conjured an unfortunate image of our zillionaire former PM, jetting off to California for expensive organ-swapping procedures that are simply beyond the means of most people in this country.

The third set of villains is, of course, the other candidates, who have been so robotically dull that they have made Jeremy’s woolly ruminations seem positively electrifying. They are so torpid that it almost feels as if they want to lose. Come on, guys: where is the fire? Where are your plans to build a new Jerusalem? I cannot think of a single thing any of them has said – except to bash Corbyn, with the result that Corbyn is the story, Corbyn is the guy that everyone wants to see – and the loony Corbynmania grows, like a stock market bubble that will burst too late.

Which brings me to the group that bears final responsibility for what may – may, as I say – be about to happen: the armies of Labour rank and file who honestly seem to think that this might be the way forward. Yes, there really are a few hundred thousand people who seriously think that we should turn back the clock, take huge swathes of industry back into public ownership and massively expand the state.

The problem for Labour is that they do not represent the majority of people in this country. That is the real lesson of this campaign so far: that the mass of the Labour Party is totally out of touch with reality and common sense. How should we Tories react? Well, that is for another column; but in the meantime we watch with befuddlement and bewilderment that is turning all the time into a sense of exhilarating vindication: I told you they were loony.

A third runway at Heathrow would be a huge mistake

The whole objective of expanding Heathrow was, in theory, to answer this basic question. So it is amazing to find that the Davies solution fails the very test he sets, failing to connect us abroad – and even at home.

Heathrow expansion has been explicitly sold to MPs as a way of helping links between London and the rest of the UK. But look at what Davies is forecasting. The number of UK connections goes not up but DOWN, from seven to four. I am not sure that they are aware of this in Scotland or Northern Ireland indeed in the Northern Powerhouse. Some British cities will be bitterly disappointed not to gain the promised links, and some will actually lose. And how many more long-haul destinations will we get? All of – wait for it – seven! By 2030.

The traffic would be so bad that we would need a new congestion charge in west London

There is absolutely no hope, on this plan, of catching up with our European rivals, let alone Dubai or any of the rapidly growing airports of Asia or America. You might wonder how this can be. How can we be so incompetent as to expand Heathrow, and produce such a pitiful increase in connectivity?

The answer is simple lack of capacity, combined with the constraints that Sir Howard has been obliged to place on his solution. In the hope of restricting the very serious increase in noise pollution, he has been forced to call for a partial ban on night flights. This would reduce Heathrow’s existing connections with Hong Kong, Singapore and China, and deter low-cost carriers whose business model needs early morning and late evening flights – and all this for a night flight “ban” that would actually increase the number of nocturnal noise victims by 33 per cent.

You might say the obvious solution to this capacity crunch is to build not just a third but a fourth runway. And yet this option, of course, is explicitly ruled out. A fourth runway would cause such an inferno of noise and pollution in west London that Sir Howard calls, preposterously, for a legal “ban” on the very idea.

What a new runway at Heathrow might look like (Graphic: PA)

Now people may take these “bans” – on night flights and a fourth runway – with a pinch of salt. Heathrow Airport itself doesn’t accept them. It may be that these are more fingers-crossed promises, and that the whole exercise is fundamentally dishonest. But we must take Sir Howard at his word. In which case we would get a third runway that won’t perceptibly increase British links with the rest of the world, and that contrives to REDUCE domestic links, and with no possibility of further expansion.

This would be achieved at colossal and so far unacknowledged expense to the taxpayer. The bill for the third runway is currently put at £22.6 billion, including £5 billion for surface access. As Willie Walsh has been making clear, there is no way the airlines (mainly BA) are going to pay. The transport costs, says Transport for London, are nearer £15-20 billion. The whole bill is probably above £40 billion to the public purse. And the environmental damage is massive – another 250,000 people afflicted by noise pollution, taking the total to one million. No other society is contemplating such a step backwards.

Even on Sir Howard’s wildly over-optimistic figures, there would be another 28,000 people suffering noise of over 70 decibels. That is horrendously loud. Then there is the damage to air quality in London. This legal obstacle is so serious that the Davies report bizarrely proposes that we should build the runway – and then only use it if we can clean up the air.

As Sir Howard says, the traffic would be so bad that we would need a new congestion charge in west London; and all this misery for a solution that will be obsolete as soon as it is built.

If the Government wants to be long-termist it should go for the truly long- term solution, a four-runway hub, and the logical place is in the Thames estuary. The GDP growth unleashed would dwarf Heathrow, with 50 per cent more routes overall, double the number of domestic routes, to say nothing of the huge scope for much-needed housing and regeneration. That is what the Government should do – to stick with its principled stance, to keep its explicit manifesto promise.

This is the time to ignore the pleas of the largely foreign owners of Heathrow, and to back a solution that is better for hundreds of thousands of local people, better for the economy, and better for British business as well.

Frightening and exhausting but an exhilarating way to reach the top

When we turned up at the hotel on the Friday night, it was clear that we had come ill-prepared for what our hosts had in mind. Gloves? I said. Hats? Goggles? We didn’t have any of that malarkey. As for waterproof jackets and trousers – well, I proposed to go in my tweed jacket, if that was all right with them. They laughed, in a slightly incredulous way.

Stefano, our guide, indicated where he proposed to take us, and that was when I began – as I have said – to feel a twinge of alarm. The mountain did seem very high, and very big – probably one of the largest and coldest objects in the whole European landscape.

I looked anxiously at Marina, but she seemed to be taking things in her stride. The truth is that I don’t think either of us fully grasped, even then, what we were letting ourselves in for. The next morning we set out at 10.30 with Stephano, and I was relieved to find that we were going by car. We drove up and up in a Mitsubishi 4 X 4, and, as we passed the pistes, I marvelled at the expense and energy that goes into bulldozing the rocks out the way. The result is that in the summer the ski slopes become lovely undulating meadows.

The story of the first ascent of the Matterhorn

I thought perhaps we might stop, and meander among the wildflowers. Oh no. Stephano had other ideas. We finally came to a place that already seemed impossibly high – at the top of the highest ski-lift. Was that it, then? Was our excursion complete? It was not.

We got out and began to walk, and as the hours went by it became clear that this was no ramble. Higher and higher we went, until there was no grass and no trees. We had left the ibex far below us. There weren’t even any birds, let alone butterflies; and the landscape had changed from the Sound of Music to a desolate and blasted moonscape, full of haphazard piles of metamorphic rock, colossal slabs of schist and gneiss – broken and ruined as though eternally dynamited by some malign cosmic force.

By this stage I was starting to feel the effects of hauling my 17 stone up the mountain, and Stephano made a sympathetic puffing noise, like a walrus. “Are you all right, Boris?” he asked. “We can always stop or go back if it is not possible for you.” Well, there is only one way to respond to a challenge like that, isn’t there? We kept going, Marina much more nimbly than me.

By mid afternoon we came at last to a “rifugio” – a kind of pinewood cabin just below the snowline, where Stephano proposed that we spend the night. In the morning, said our guide, we would make for the summit. Why wait? I said, with all the bravura I could muster. Why not keep going? Stephano looked at me and smiled.

How to climb the Matterhorn

We passed a fitful night, surrounded by exceedingly serious Italian mountaineers, all of them bedecked with ropes and pitons and ice-axes, and all of them roasted by the sun to the colour of Nutella. At 4 am we rose and put on miner’s headlamps and crampons – the first time I have ever worn crampons – and began the final assault.

By now the whole mission was turning in my imagination into some Everest disaster epic. We staggered on up a wide and steep plain of ice and snow, fissured by crevasses. As the wind started to bite us – penetrating even the waterproof I had borrowed from the Mayor of Ayas – my morale began to sink yet further.

I fell over as I negotiated a crevasse, and as I tottered to my feet I asked Stephano if we could declare victory. “Isn’t this pretty much the summit?” I asked. It wasn’t, said our guide. For two more hours we toiled up a snow ridge so terrifying that we were commanded not to look on either side – an instruction I disobeyed. I instantly felt queasy. We were walking up a knife edge, with certain death on either side.

The Matterhorn for hikers

Finally we were on the top, just as the sun came up, and I wish I could record that I felt full of some spiritual insight or peace. As we tried to keep our balance on that small patch of stamped-down snow, I thought how lucky it was that Marina was so good at climbing, and I wondered how on earth we were going to get down from this 4226 metre spot and catch our plane from Turin; and as I looked at Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, gleaming in the dawn, I am afraid I yearned to climb them, too.

The Queen was wise to mock Hitler

You will recall that in 1936 Hitler broke international treaties and invaded the Rhineland; and for many people in this country it was becoming obvious that he was bent on revenge for the First World War, that he was virulently anti-Semitic, and that he could not be trusted. So here is your starter for 10. Who went to Germany after that invasion, and returned so bamboozled by Hitler that he called him, “a born leader of men, a magnetic dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will and a dauntless heart”? It was the man who led us to victory in the First World War; one of the founders of the welfare state; a man who is widely revered for his work for the poor and needy of Britain. It was former PM David Lloyd George, who went on in the same emetic article to call the German leader “the George Washington of Germany”.

May 1945: Princess Elizabeth with Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, King George VI and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day 1945

And Lloyd George was not alone in his bad judgment. Which editor of a great and patriotic national newspaper was a supporter of appeasement – the policy of letting Hitler get away with it? Step forward Geoffrey Dawson, fellow of All Souls and editor of The Times. He published a leader after the remilitarisation of the Rhineland announcing that it was “A Chance to Rebuild”. He was so pro-German that in 1937 he said that he spent the evenings looking at the proofs of the paper, and “taking out anything which I think will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them”. Of course, Dawson was also innocent – in the sense that he couldn’t have imagined that Hitler’s concentration camps such as Dachau, which had first opened in 1933, would become a byword for horror; and indeed The Times changed its tune pretty smartly as soon as war broke out.

Who said in 1938: “One may dislike Hitler’s system, yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”

All I am trying to show is that delusions about Hitler persisted even among the most brilliant and well-educated adults, and even among those who were to become his most formidable opponents. So here is my final question. Shortly after Hitler entered the Sudetenland, a famous statesman made an extraordinary observation. “One may dislike Hitler’s system, yet admire his patriotic achievement,” said this British politician in November 1938. “If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations”. Who said it? Well, you all know the answer – it was Winston Churchill, of course. Ah, you will say; but we have ripped Churchill’s words out of context; we have found one iffy remark that should in no way subtract from his clear and prescient warnings about the reality of the threat from Hitler and Nazism. And you are right. It is all about context, context, context.

The two little girls are plainly fooling around, and so is their mother, and so – probably – is their uncle Edward, even if he did go on to maintain a sinister sympathy for the Nazi regime. This was a time when people made fun of Nazis and their pompous and preposterous behaviour – think of P G Wodehouse’s character Spode, in the Code of the Woosters, expecting people to greet him with the words “Heil Spode”. People have made fun of Nazis ever since. Is there anyone growing up in post-war Britain who has not at one time or another done a mock-fascist Dr Strangelove salute? Is there anyone who cannot remember little kids at some stage flapping their arms in that way? And this is after the war, after the horror had been exposed. These days people pay a high price for jokes. Think of Sir Tim Hunt. But at least he was an adult who understood what he was saying. The young Queen-to-be had no idea of the contemporary – let alone the later – significance of her gesture, and today she fully deserves the national surge of affection and admiration.

Greece must rediscover the spirit of Marathon to burst its euro shackles

First, they must simply hand over “valuable Greek assets of €50 billion” to be privatised – flogged off to decrease the debt. Who will do the privatising? Schäuble proposes that these Greek state assets – airports, electricity companies, whatever – should be surrendered to a body called the “Institution for Growth in Luxembourg”. And who is in charge of this institution, eh? Jawohl, meine Freunde! It turns out to be a front for the German KfW, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, the state development bank that was set up, ironically, as part of the postwar Marshall plan to rescue the bombed-out German economy.

These Greek state assets may be tarnished, they may be indebted, but they belong to the Greek people; and now the 72-year-old Schäuble is seriously proposing that this family silver should be taken and sold by the Germans. Why the Germans? Because it is obvious from Schäuble’s proposals that he has complete contempt for the Greeks’ ability to run their own affairs.

His next two conditions are that there should be “capacity-building and depoliticizing Greek administrative tasks under hospices (sic) of the COM for proper administration of the program; (c) automatic spending cuts in case of missing deficit targets”. The arrogance is amazing. What does he mean by “capacity-building”? He means sending in natty-jacketed Eurocrats to take over the country. What does he mean by “depoliticizing”? He means telling Greek voters and politicians to get stuffed, because it is the Germans who are now running the show.

It is fitting that the draftsperson was confused about “hospices” and “auspices”. The eurozone is indeed turning into a hospice, and the dying patient is democratic self-government. That is what Germany wants Greece to do, as the price of staying in the euro. The only alternative, says Schäuble, is a “time-out” from the eurozone for at least five years: in other words, expulsion.

As the hours have passed since this document was leaked over the weekend, I have waited for the repudiation from Berlin. I had assumed that Angela Merkel would somehow distance herself from the demands of her finance minister – perhaps even issue a formal démenti. On the contrary, it has become ever clearer that this ultimatum has her support, and the support of the German government.

The message from Berlin is clear: either we take over the economic government of Greece, or we kick Greece out of the eurozone – and what is even more astonishing is that no one, in any other European country, is rallying to the side of the Greeks.

After five years of crisis, the European Union has reached such depths of intellectual and spiritual exhaustion that ministers are willing to contemplate two appalling options: the immolation of Greek democracy or a Grexit that would almost certainly prove contagious to other eurozone members – including, ultimately, the French themselves.

What will the Greeks do? My heart says they should tell Schäuble to get stuffed. Five years ago, I said they should go for freedom, and I think the same today. What have they gained, by staving off the inevitable? More unemployment, more misery, more poverty. What have they got to lose? Nothing but their chains – the servitude that goes with a cruel monetary version of the Ottoman empire.

Now is the time to rediscover the spirit of Marathon, to fight for the things that made Greece great, to burst the shackles of the Great King of Brussels. Now is the time for what they used to call arete – the full expression of their independent moral virtue.

Will they? Alas, I doubt it. The tragedy of modern Greece is that they don’t really trust themselves – any more than Schäuble does – to run their own affairs. There are still large public majorities for staying with the euro, for sticking with nurse – in spite of the toxic medicine she dispenses. I expect that the agony will go on, with endless deadlines and fudges and semi-disguised bailouts.

But the lessons from the Schäuble paper are clear. They apply to Britain as much as to Greece. The first lesson is that this is what happens when a nation gives up economic sovereignty, in the hope – accurate or deluded – of somehow becoming richer. The Greeks thought they were being smart to sacrifice their monetary independence; they thought they could free-ride. They didn’t appreciate that this autonomy might be something valuable in itself – something they would one day yearn for again.

The second lesson is that whatever they say in Brussels, there is nothing inevitable about any of this process of “integration”. It is all up for grabs. This is no time to moderate UK proposals for reform; quite the reverse, and David Cameron is dead right to open a new front on employment law.

No one can read that German paper, and conclude that the EU is still meant to be an association of sovereign nation-states. These Schäuble proposals are tyrannical. They should be bitterly resisted.

Greece strikes deal with creditors – live reaction

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Let’s cut taxes for people at the top and the bottom

I looked at the tax arrangements of the last 16 in the world’s greatest knock-out tennis competition – athletes from about a dozen countries – and what I discovered was sobering for British tennis.

Thanks to Gordon Brown’s decision to hike the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent, Andy was the man with the least to gain from victory. Everyone else would have taken a bigger share of the swag, because virtually every other nation, with the arguable exception of Belgium, was then imposing a lower top rate of tax. Was it possible, I asked – semi-frivolously – that we could sharpen Andy’s appetite for success?

Perhaps if we made a small fiscal adjustment, we could persuade him to lunge that extra half a yard and fling that racket with that extra ration of sublime frenzy. Perhaps, I suggested, we could cut the top rate to 45p and turn him from also-ran to champion.

Well, folks, that article obviously went down big in the Treasury. It was only the next year that George Osborne courageously reduced the top rate – and pow!

What happened the year after that? In 2013, Andy Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry to win the game’s premier tournament. It was a moment of incredulous national ecstasy.

Now I am not going to push this point too far. No one would seriously suggest that top tennis players are entirely motivated by the size of the prize money. But plenty of serious people accept at least the thrust of the argument – that tax cuts can, in fact, lead to extra effort and higher performance. And there are plenty of people who do believe – as I do – in the Laffer curve: the idea that a cut in the taxation rate may stimulate enterprise, leading to higher yields overall. Well If we discuss about normal people then check here at https://taxfyle.com/blog/can-i-deduct-my-medical-expenses/ to know how medical expenses for their taxes deduction.

Thanks to the Tories, Andy’s position has markedly improved in the tennis tax table. He is about halfway down. If he wins the £1.88 million jackpot, he would pay less than the Belgian and the Canadian but far more than the Serbs or the Croats or the bouncing Czech.

The question now for Britain is whether we want to go further, whether we want an even more competitive tax rate – not for our tennis stars so much as for the millions who might be encouraged and incentivised to work harder, produce more and therefore fill higher the tithe barn of the Exchequer.

Again, there are plenty who think this would be a good idea. Nigel Lawson has recently argued that the top rate should go back down to 40p, and many Conservatives agree. I am among them.

But there is a very serious problem, and we would need to sort it out before any such top rate tax cut could go ahead. That problem is fairness, and how such a cut would be seen by the wider population.

Most people do not think in terms of Laffer curves. They may intellectually accept that a cut in the top rate of income tax could generate more tax for the Government to spend on schools and roads and hospitals. But that is not how they picture the impact of any Budget.

We think of ourselves according to our relationship with others – and it is simply not fair that a Budget should put more disposable income in the pockets of the rich and less disposable income in the pockets of the poor so that they can spend that extra cash on something that will add value in their life like buying a car on finance. And that, alas, would be the result if we were to cut top-rate tax and simultaneously to cut in-work benefits without any compensating improvements in pay.

It is outrageous that multi-billion-pound companies are mainlining money from the welfare system and using it to subsidise low pay.

We are snarled ever more densely in the coils of a trap – an elaborate benefits trap prepared by Gordon Brown and from which most thoughtful Labour MPs would like to escape.

Of the staggering £76 billion now being paid in in-work benefits, £11  billion is going to those who work in retail. Think of that. These are companies whose chief executives now earn vast multiples of the wages of the majority of their staff.

That multiple – the ratio between the boardroom and the checkout till – has grown enormously over the past 20 years. If you ask these titans why they deserve so much more, they will always invoke “market forces” – the need to pay executives very large sums to stop them being poached.

Well, many observers would say that boardroom pay had less to do with market forces than with a racket by which a relatively small cadre of business people sit on each other’s “remcoms” – remuneration committees – and engage in an orgy of mutual back-scratching.

Boris Johnson visits a supermarket during the 2015 election (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

And as for low pay, it isn’t a function of market forces. It’s being propped up by the taxpayer. That needs to end. And that means business has got to start paying its people a wage they can live on.

Yes, we should be cutting taxes all round – cutting the top rate as well as lifting the thresholds and taking the poor out of tax. We should have the most competitive tax regime in Europe, while in others countries like Brasil there are other taxes as the IPVA São Paulo for vehicles. But we need to make clear to the business leaders of this country that we can only cut tax for them at the top if they do the right thing: treat their workers properly and pay them a living wage.

Miliband could savage our cities faster than any bomb

Everyone is familiar with the struggle of Generation Rent. Even readers who are owner-occupiers will have friends or relatives who have seen their rents rise to eye-watering levels. No one could fail to have sympathy with their plight. But if we are to have any chance of solving the problem, we must understand what has really caused it.

In London – where more and more people are being driven to rent at ever higher prices – two factors have come together to produce a crisis. The first is the sheer popularity and success of the city. London is the most dynamic urban economy in Europe, with a growing population and an enormous demand for housing. And that demand has been exacerbated, secondly, by the total failure of the previous Labour government – in which Ed Miliband served – to build enough homes. Don’t just take it from me. As Miliband admitted himself in 2010, after he had been (rightly) kicked out of office: “We refused to prioritise the building of new social housing”. Or as Ed Balls put it: “Labour was wrong…We were late in recognising the importance of building more homes, and more affordable homes.”

How many houses are we building?
Date Private companies Housing associations Councils All sources
1969-70 185,920 7,410 185,000 378,320
1970-71 174,340 8,510 179,370 362,230
1971-72 196,310 10,700 157,460 364,480
1972-73 200,760 7,780 122,400 330,940
1973-74 191,080 8,980 104,580 304,640
1974-75 145,180 9,970 124,440 279,580
1975-76 154,530 14,750 152,660 321,940
1976-77 155,230 153,770 324,770
1977-78 143,910 145,060 314,090
1978-79 152,170 22,780 113,660 288,600
1979-80 144,060 18,070 89,700 251,820
1980-81 131,970 21,420 88,590 241,990
1981-82 118,580 19,420 68,570 206,570
1982-83 129,000 13,510 40,310 182,820
1983-84 153,020 16,660 39,220 208,900
1984-85 165,420 17,260 37,590 220,270
1985-86 163,360 13,750 30,450 207,570
1986-87 177,160 12,940 25,420 215,510
1987-88 191,250 13,150 21,830 226,230
1988-89 207,420 13,490 21,450 242,360
1989-90 187,540 14,600 19,380 221,520
1990-91 161,630 19,190 16,380 197,210
1991-92 160,250 21,090 9,900 191,250
1992-93 143,980 30,010 4,420 178,420
1993-94 146,750 36,580 3,530 186,850
1994-95 155,290 37,240 3,060 195,580
1995-96 156,540 38,170 3,010 197,710
1996-97 153,450 30,950 1,540 185,940
1997-98 160,680 28,550 1,520 190,760
1998-99 154,560 22,870 870 178,290
1999-00 160,520 23,170 320 184,010
2000-01 152,740 22,250 380 175,370
2001-02 153,580 20,400 230 174,200
2002-03 164,300 18,610 300 183,210
2003-04 172,360 18,020 210 190,590
2004-05 184,500 21,990 130 206,620
2005-06 189,700 23,990 320 214,000
2006-07 192,170 26,650 260 219,070
2007-08 189,660 28,630 250 218,530
2008-09 144,920 33,040 830 178,790
2009-10 117,980 34,190 780 152,940
2010-11 104,770 30,920 1,760 137,450
2011-12 109,620 34,190 3,080 146,850
2012-13 106,030 27,160 2,330 135,510
2013-14 111,750 27,120 2,060 140,930


One of the Labour members of the London Assembly, Tom Copley, has even called for the party to apologise for its failure to build more homes. As you might expect from Labour politicians, they are in fact understating the scale of the disaster, or their role in it. In the 13 years of the Labour government, housebuilding plunged to its lowest level since the Twenties. They saw the number of available affordable homes fall by 200,000; and indeed – this is the statistic that should really make them hang their heads with shame – they built fewer council homes in 13 years than Mrs Thatcher did in one year of her premiership.

Nor were things any better for those looking to buy on the open market: under Labour, the number of first-time buyers collapsed to the lowest levels since the Seventies; and perhaps no wonder, when you consider that Labour has always been suspicious of home-ownership – and the feelings of pride, autonomy and independence that go with it. In short: Labour failed dismally to build enough homes during the long years of the boom – and it is that failure we Tories have been trying our utmost, and with increasing success, to rectify.

In London, we are well on target now to deliver a record 100,000 new affordable homes over the life of this mayoralty; and there are more homes being built – just look at the cranes – than at any time since the early Eighties. These homes are for social rent, for part-buy-part-rent, for market sale and for market rent. For years now, we have been working to get the big pension funds and insurers to use their billions for the good of this country – by funding the building of tens of thousands of good new homes, for private rent, on brownfield sites. We are finally getting there. We have about 13,000 new rental homes in the pipeline – and the fear is that if their rents are unfairly controlled, these investors will just walk away; construction will halt; and we will be back to the inertia of the Labour years.

Now I suppose you might not care much about killing off new supply; you might think it would be a fine thing just to clobber existing landlords, force them to hold down rents. The result, alas, would be the exact opposite. All experience, in Britain and around the world, has shown that rent-controlled landlords let their buildings decay; and far from holding down rents, the three-year freeze would simply encourage landlords to whack them up sharply at the beginning and the end of the tenancy. This policy means higher rents, fewer homes, and general dilapidation. Like so much of Miliband’s agenda, it means going back to the Seventies.

It is not the way forward for Britain. The way forward is to build hundreds of thousands of higher-quality homes, including for market rent; to insist that landlords conform to the London Rental Standard in maintaining their properties; and to help people – as we are – with their rental deposit, interest-free. With the pressures now on the housing market, it is mad to pursue policies that would actively throttle new building and throttle the rental market, and if Miliband won’t listen to me, he should pay attention to his ideological kinsmen in formerly commie Vietnam. This isn’t a new policy. Lefties have been there, done it, and they know it is a disaster.

Tories to anoint Boris Johnson as leader in waiting if David Cameron fails at election

There is no suggestion of a coup against Mr Cameron, with those involved describing the talks as “sensible contingency planning” in case the party needs a new leader quickly. Mr Cameron himself has suggested that he would have failed as leader if he is unable to form majority government after the election.

The Telegraph has spoken to senior Conservatives from different parts of the party – ministers, backbenchers and party officials. Several suggested that Mr Cameron could step down even if the Tories win more seats than Labour at the election.

One option being examined is for Mr Cameron to remain Prime Minister for a short period while the Conservative Party arranges a “coronation” for Boris Johnson as leader, who would then take the premiership and try to assemble a Tory-led minority government.

Another scenario would see the Conservatives decline the chance to try to form a government if the numbers were not in their favour, instead allowing Labour the chance to do a deal with the Scottish National Party in the hope that the new government would quickly collapse.

Polling analysis suggests that the Conservatives could well be the largest party in parliament, beating Labour but still falling short of a Commons majority of 323 seats.

Boris Johnson at a children’s play centre in Surbiton

However, the party’s ability to form a government could be limited by its potential partners.

Of the smaller parties, only the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionists have suggested they could be willing to work with the Tories to support a minority government. Those two parties are expected to have fewer than 40 seats between them on current polling.

Some senior Tories are sceptical of whether the Lib Dems would actually back a Tory government, given the political harm the party suffered from its last coalition deal with the Conservatives.

Labour, by contrast, could work with the Lib Dems and the SNP, who between them could have 80 MPs, likely to be enough to give a minority Labour government a working majority in the Commons.

Mr Cameron took the Tories into power in 2010 despite failing to win a majority.

As the incumbent Prime Minister, Mr Cameron would have the first attempt to form a government in a hung parliament after this election.

But one senior Tory figure suggested that, if the Tories had most seats but not enough allies for a clear majority, the party might decide to remove him rather than let him make the attempt.

Instead of a formal vote of no confidence, a delegation of senior MPs would tell Mr Cameron to resign, under this plan.

MPs believe the PM would not resist. They noted that in a BBC interview last week, he appeared to accept that if he did not win a majority he would have failed as a leader.

“If the numbers aren’t there, there would a very strong argument for saying ‘You’ve now failed to win two elections in a row – time’s up”.” said the senior Tory.

Some Tories believe that a Labour government backed by the SNP would very unstable and potentially collapse within months.

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Under current laws, that would not automatically mean a new election, but might give the Tories another chance to try to form a government.

Some Tories want to make sure the party is ready with a new leader – Mr Johnson – as soon as possible after the election.

The last Conservative leadership election took two months as MPs held several ballots to select a shortlist of two that was then put to party members in a postal vote.

One minister said that Mr Johnson now has a “very well organised team in place” to make him leader quickly after the election.

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The team is said to include at least one Cabinet minister and several well-placed MPs, as well as leading Conservative thinkers and pollsters.

“They’re ready for all the options,” said the minister. “There is talk of Boris being appointed by acclamation.”

One option would see Mr Cameron resign as leader quickly after the election but stay on until Mr Johnson was “acclaimed” Tory leader without a formal election among the full party membership.

That might mean a quick vote among MPs, or even a return to the Conservative tradition of a “magic circle” of grandees picking a leader, a practice that continued until 1963.

Boris Johnson and the Tory leadership question

April 22 2015

This week Boris said it would be “wonderful” to be prime minister one day. He said: “It is at least five years away which is an aeon in British politics, by which time whatever my personal ambitions may be there will be thrusting young men and women who will be overtaking me and who knows, it will all be different. In the dim, distant future, obviously it would be a wonderful thing to be thought to be in a position to be considered for such an honour but I think it highly unlikely.”

September 15 2014

On announcing his campaign to retain the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip for the Conservatives, Boris sought to play down suggestions it marked the latest stage of a mission to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader. He said: “No, this is the first stage in the campaign to retain the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip for the Conservatives. This is Act One, Scene One of a very long process. There’s a lot of digging in to be done.”

August 6 2014

As speculation began to build when Boris announced he planned to run for parliament, he was forced to refute claims he was building up to a bid for the Conservative leadership. He said “I think it’s highly unlikely that that will happen because there’s no vacancy. I think David Cameron has been a brilliant prime minister. When David Cameron finally steps down, in 2030, or whenever, it may be that there’s a vacancy, but it will probably be filled by a person who’s a teenager now.”

October 1 2013

Boris encouraged speculation about his plans for the Tory leadership when – hours after David Cameron said he would support him in returning to the House of Commons as an MP – Boris referred to Alain Juppé, the former French prime minister and said: “He told me that he was now the mayor of Bordeaux – I think he may have been mayor of Bordeaux when he was Prime Minister. It’s the kind of thing they do in France.”

March 25 2013

Asked in an interview for a BBC documentary if he would like to be prime minister one day, Boris said: “Well I would like to be the lead singer of an international rock group. That was my aim. Or a guitarist. I would love to have been a world famous painter or a composer. There are many many things I have done or would like to have been able to do. Obviously, if the ball came loose from the back of a scrum – which it won’t – it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at. But it’s not going to happen.”

March 22 2013

Speaking to schoolchildren at south London’s Norwood School, Boris said: “If, like the Roman leader Cincinnatus, I were to be called from my plough to serve in that office, I wouldn’t, of course, say no.” He went on to repeat his familiar denial, saying that the chances of his actually becoming prime minister were “about as good as my being reincarnated as an olive”. However, he added: “If people genuinely wanted me, of course I would want to do it.”

June 2 2012

While being quizzed by crowds at the Hay Festival back in 2012, Boris said: “As I never tire of saying, my chances of becoming prime minister are only slightly better than being decapitated by a frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a fridge or being reincarnated as an olive.”

November 25 2009

“Were I to be pulled like Cincinnatus from my plough, then obviously it would be an absolute privilege to serve.”

October 5 2005

Speaking about the Conservative leadership contest in a conference diary he wrote for The Independent back in 2005, he said: “I’m backing David Cameron’s campaign out of pure, cynical self-interest.”

June 17 2004

When asked by a reader in The Independent to admit that he wanted to become prime minister, Boris said: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”


Boris is quoted by his sister Rachel Johnson as having had ambitions to be “World King” as a child. She said: “As Boris was growing up whenever anyone asked him what he wanted to be, he would answer: ‘World King’.”

If Ed Miliband’s in the driving seat, Nicola Sturgeon will be steering him to the Left

If Miliband is to occupy Downing Street, he will have to do it either by means of a formal coalition with Salmond/Sturgeon, or with an arrangement called confidence and supply, by which the Scots Nats agree to help knock his legislation through the Commons.

It is therefore obvious to every serious political analyst that he would be in many ways the plaything of the SNP. Unless he has the support of that 40-plus bloc of Scottish secessionists, he will be stymied. If Miliband somehow manages to form a minority government, he will be peeping from Alec Salmond’s sporran like a baffled baby kangaroo. He would be the vacillating Macbeth, pushed hither and yon by Lady Macbeth, in the form of Nicola Sturgeon.

Did you see her the other night, telling him to man up, to screw his courage to the sticking place – to do what she told him to do because “you are not strong enough on your own”? The awful truth is that she is right. Without her help and her say-so, and without the support of Salmond and his troops in the Commons, there is not a single bill that Labour could get through. It is a recipe for chaos; and worse than chaos – because the SNP has changed over the years.

The reason they have lampreyed the life out of Labour in Scotland is that they have become ever more Left wing. Miliband is already the most Left-wing Labour leader since Michael Foot, promoting an agenda that seems to be avowedly hostile to wealth creation and “predatory” capitalism. The SNP are Lefties on steroids. They want to abandon any attempt to get the deficit under control, and indeed the Treasury has calculated that they would borrow another £148 billion.

They think taxes are far too low in Britain, and would seek new “progressive” taxes on top of what Labour is already proposing. They would scrap Trident, denuding Britain of its nuclear deterrent and sending future prime ministers naked into the conference chamber. The SNP would junk all attempts to reform the welfare system – even though they have the support of most voters in this country, and indeed most Labour voters.

They seem to dislike anything to do with America or free trade, and so would ditch the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, even though the deal would be good for the UK economy. On many of these issues they would of course be opposed, initially, by many Labour MPs. But what could they do? Unless Miliband plays ball, he will be powerless to legislate. He would lose the confidence of parliament, and he would be chucked out.

Yes, he will be sitting in the driving seat, pretending to be steering the car – but all the time he will have clever Nicola next to him, whispering in his ear, and perpetually yanking the steering wheel to the Left. Eventually there will be another terrible crash, just as there was in 2008/9.

But why should the SNP care a hoot about that? There is a grim sense in which the worst outcome for the UK is also – for a party that wants to break up the UK – the best.

Miliband’s proposed deal with the Scots Nats is like the fable of the frog that agrees to carry the scorpion across the river. In the end he will get stung – because that is the nature of the beast.

The risk is that by the end of this calamitous partnership there will be so many people in England who are cheesed off by the SNP’s behaviour that they will be only too happy to bid Scotland goodbye; and anybody thinking of voting Ukip should realise that by putting in a Labour/SNP alliance they are going to turn the UK into the Former UK, and their party will have to be called FUKIP.

Keep the Tories and you keep the Beefeaters guarding the Tower; you let farmers protect their chickens with their own shotguns; you keep out Attila and other roaming Eastern European criminals with tougher immigration controls; you keep Britain’s booming breweries and distilleries exporting overseas with ever-greater confidence; you repair the church tower with the VAT refund introduced by George Osborne – and as for the crèche that was in danger of being run by Herod, you fund ever better child care with the 30-day free care announced in the manifesto.

Vote Tory to stop a Labour/SNP coalition from wrecking the country – a choice, as I may have mentioned before, between competence and chaos.

Inheritance tax should not be inflicted on ordinary families

That house is no swankier than an identical house in a cheaper part of the country, and indeed it is still the same house that you bought all those years ago. It still has a worrying damp spot in the bathroom and it still has a couple of tiles missing from the roof – but irrespective of any defects it may or may not possess its value has maintained a continuous and fairly vertiginous upward trajectory.

You don’t think an ordinary home in London could be hit by this tax? You think I must be talking about rich people? Well, let us look at the story of London house prices since 1983, when the Halifax building society started recording them. In that year the average purchase price for a property – across all buyers and house types – was a derisory £38,000.

Then of course the economy started to roar away. We had the Big Bang, the rise of popular capitalism; we had growth in the London population and the return of confidence in the city. By 1989 that same average home was worth an astonishing £102,000. It had more than doubled in just six years – and then there was the bust of the early Nineties. Property prices tumbled in a recession that was exacerbated by the ERM and high interest rates. Everyone who wishes that house prices could fall again should remember that time, and be careful what they wish for. It was a pretty grim period, of very high unemployment, massive repossessions, and much economic grief.

By 1995 that average London property was worth only £77,000. It was the following year, however, that things really started to pick up. The economy was being well managed by Ken Clarke. Interest rates were back down, and an amazing 12-year boom began, as the incoming Blair government enjoyed the fruits of Tory reforms and a propitious global economy.

Here is how that average London house price performed, year by year, during that complacent epoch from 1997 to 2007: £96,000, £104,000, £121,000, £144,000, £158,000, £185,000, £219,000, £241,000, £258,000 £270,000, £314,000. And then of course there was the crash of 2008, as Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband collectively drove the economy off the cliff.

By 2008 they had succeeded in bringing the average price down to £251,000 – and were rightly booted out of office. Since then there has been a recovery, and last year for the first time the average house price in London was above pre-crash levels at £356,000. It is vital to stress that these extraordinary house prices are very far from unalloyed economic good news.

These values are now many multiples of average incomes. It is grotesquely unfair to millions of young people, who feel they have no hope of getting on the ladder as their parents did. We need to tackle the problem, as we are, by making more homes available, of all types. We are building record numbers of homes – more this year in London than since 1980; we have built record numbers of affordable homes, and we can do it on brownfield sites: there is scope for about 400,000 new high-quality homes just on London’s brownfield land.

We must insist on steep taxes on foreign buyers who invest in flats but leave them empty – and all London boroughs should be making use of their existing powers to levy a punitive council tax. We cannot have homes being marketed overseas before they are advertised to Londoners – an outrageous and long-standing practice that developers agreed to drop last year.

And we must stop the injustice by which London families are being forced by inheritance tax to sell off the family home simply because it was their fate to grow up in London, the most successful urban economy in Europe. It wasn’t their fault, or their parents’ fault, that the asset should have appreciated so fast – with the digits almost visibly spooling round in the estate agents’ windows as Mavi Unlimited Inc for example.

With the average London purchase price last year at £356,000, it is now literally true that a tax intended for the very rich is now hitting ordinary families in average homes. It is entirely right that this tax cut should be funded by changes to the pension arrangements of the tiny minority earning over £150,000. The Conservatives are helping huge numbers of people to pass on a little bit more to their children. They are supporting a natural human instinct. Inheritance tax has been falling on the wrong people. If the Tories win, an injustice will be righted.

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