Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

by Gareth Wilson

11:12 AM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

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Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times
Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

Clare Foges was the speech writer for David Cameron 2011 – 2015

Clare Foges was the speech writer for David Cameron between 2011 and 2015.

This weekend I read her “readers letter” in The Times. If you saw it then you’d probably have been as rattled by it as I was. In fact, I was so annoyed that I decided to write and publish a rebuttal here in the hope that she (Clare Foges), The Times and other National Media will pick up on it. Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

The article, entitled “Blair’s support for buy-to-let landlords flies in the face of plans to let people buy their homes” is a prime example of the ignorance and opportunism driving a present-day anti-landlord bandwagon, and the absurd destructive policies of Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

The statement within Clare Foges’ contribution to The Times, that I feel best encompasses the dogma in policy-making, which the Omnia Judicial Review is seeking to resolve, is this:

Those “investments” might have been someone’s home.

The problem with both this article and Clause 24 itself is that “those investmentsare someone’s home. They are the homes of millions of renters across the length and breadth of Britain: renters just as entitled to live within the capital (or anywhere in the country) as Ms Foges. Crucially, moreover, they are the homes of which a great many renters will be deprived, should the floundering George Osborne and the article’s cheerleading author be permitted to get their way.

Her dismissal of such renters as “suckers”, says a great deal more of the attitude towards tenants of Ms Foges and her puppeteers in the Conservative Party, than that of landlords themselves. The reality is that tenants are dynamic, valuable and essential to the British economy. They are a mobile workforce, moving and progressing throughout their careers, between multiple geographical locations. Among their number are migrant workers with virtually no desire buy a house in the UK, and a great many young British people who, having just entered the labour market, are dependent upon access to private rental accommodation. Promotion and progress are after all, just as much an issue of geography as well as hard-work.

The reality is that “the knackered commuter head-lolling home on the train, the shift worker, the twenty-something scraping together a deposit” of whom Ms Foges expresses concern, are near one and the same as the 4.6 million “suckers” likely to suffer as a result of the Treasury’s catastrophic short-sightedness  – http://www.property118.com/new-landlord-tax-could-affect-tenants/83886/. Towards these critical members of society no such “benevolent winds” will be blown by Clause 24. They will instead suffer from rent rises, evictions, increased competition for contracting rental supply, and the saving-up of that first deposit made more difficult than ever.

Yet in addition to those not seeking to own their own home due to career transition, there is another highly important type of renter: the poor and vulnerable of Britain. For such people, purchasing property will remain a non-option, regardless of house prices, owing to their possession of neither the deposit, income, nor credit record necessary to obtain a mortgage. The sickest irony of George Osborne’s tax grab is that it will be those guaranteed not to buy their own home who will be pushed out of the private rental sector entirely. At a time when demand for social housing is already at record levels, the imposition of Clause 24 promises to utterly overwhelm council housing departments. What does Ms Foges or the Treasury propose be done about this? Neither has deigned to explain.

So what was David Cameron’s former speech writer really cheering on? Wham! Financial pressure for landlords to raise rents. Wallop! Eviction of tenants from rental properties no longer financially viable. Ding-ding! The poorest and most vulnerable renters on the floor and out for the count. And here is your winner… homelessness!

Which brings me to another prevalent trait of Clare Foges’ article: its dishonest stereotyping. Contrary to Ms Foges’ emotive spin, the ruination of mortgaged individual landlords is not a series of blows upon those for whom material comfort rests upon what they already have, where their parents invested, or when they were born. The overwhelming majority of buy-to-let landlords are in reality, industrious and self-sufficient members of the working and middle classes, who own just one rental property. Rather than recognise such people for who they really are, Clare Foges deliberately misrepresents them as a work-shy bourgeoisie, born rich with a silver spoon in their mouths. Well guess what, I inherited none of my properties from my parents: one of whom ran a small pet shop, and the other is a cleaner and dog-walker. To myself, and every buy-to-let landlord I know, such clichés do not apply. This is nothing more than a clumsy attempt to excuse woeful policy making and appeal to left-leaning voters: it’s only success however will be to ensure that every landlord to have voted Conservative in the last election will never do so again.

Of particular insult is that, the wealthiest landlords – corporate institutions and cash-buyers that such class-jibes perhaps more accurately represent – will be exempted in totality from the increased tax demands of Clause 24. So Clare Foges, will the richest incorporated landlords, who just happen to be donors to, or members of, the Conservative party, be among the 1 in 5 of landlords predicted by the Treasury to be affected by this measure? Will Richard Benyon or the Reuben Brothers pay more tax as result of Clause 24? No of course not. Her article’s stereotypes were cheap, immature and way off the mark.

As an aside, and in light of Ms Foges being Chief speech writer to the Prime Minister during the years 2011-15, I wish to further ask, was it herself that wrote David Cameron’s 29/04/15 speech, featuring the now-broken promise not to raise income tax for the next five years after the upcoming election?

The issues of high price competition, block-viewings, gazumping, and an inference from an estate agent that Clare Foges might consider prostituting herself to secure a property, are the result of a single core problem that Clause 24 fashions an easy scapegoat for instead of resolving: The population growth of London is exceeding its increase in housing supply. Only when this fundamental issue of demand and supply is resolved will the aforementioned obstacles to purchasing (or renting) a home in the capital be mitigated. Stabbing buy-to-let landlords in the back with discriminatory tax-changes is therefore not the solution. It shall serve only as the cause of an even more serious, national housing crisis: a crisis which Cherie Blair’s intervention will be instrumental in avoiding.



Comments

John Gell

11:55 AM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

What a superbly written piece Gareth. Love it.

Mark Alexander

12:00 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Absolutely fantastic rebuttal Gareth, I did read the article and felt the same way, however, your response is far better than mine would have been.

I remember thinking to myself when I first read it, this woman clearly doesn’t give a toss about the tenants she would displace in order to get her hands on a property for herself. How selfish is that?!!!

As we know, many of the people who end up renting the properties she was hoping to buy will be people who are unable to get mortgages or want/need the flexibility associated with renting.

You nailed it when you explained that the problem isn't landlords, it lack of supply of properties and ludicrous demand levels due to the incompetence of government policies over the last three decades.

Credible independent reports have concluded that Buy-To-Let is responsible for 83% of new housing created over the last three decades. How much worse would the problem be today if the Landlord and Tenant Act hadn't introduced section 21 in 1988 which led to mortgage lenders feeling confident to design and provide bespoke mortgages to landlords from 1996?
.

Simon Griffith

12:08 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Very well written Gareth. I didn't see her letter as I now avoid The Times given it's anti-landlord sentiment, preferring The Telegraph. In this instance I'm glad missed her letter as it would have spoilt my weekend. My 8 year old daughter already refers to nasty Gideon whenever we mention having to be careful with our money. My son who is 11 added a new dimension to his grammar school debate on taxation the other day ! So that's the next generation of non-tory voters sorted out too - Maggie must be turning in her grave. Osborne and Cameron are an absolute disgrace.

Off to London tomorrow to see one of Mark's tax advisers - hopefully he worked on the Google negotiations !

Mark Alexander

13:07 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

I just read this reply to Clare Foges on Facebook, written by Rupert Chapman which made me chuckle ....

"I would consider saying this to her.

I don't blame you if your lifestyle is so privileged that you choose not to see what is around you, or understand the real drivers of economic growth.

I don't blame you if you wish to feel you are alright and bugger everyone else.

I don't blame you for being brought up to feel you are superior to others.

But why on earth do you expose your ignorance, stupidity and lack of wisdom by writing such emotive tosh about something you know so little?

Is it not obvious that the most attentive reader will be the very person you write about?

Is it not obvious that your ill judgements caused by lack of understanding will be picked up and your credibility will be in tatters.

If you have the privilege to be given a media platform, take some responsibility for your own reputation and credibility and write about something you know about.

What is there that you do know about?

Writing.... Oh how about children's books then?"
.

Annie Landlord

13:14 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

An excellent piece Gareth. Have you tried sending it to The Times and asking them to print it, in the spirit of informed debate? We must never forget that everything a politician does is with at least one eye on the vote catching possibilities. Obviously the Tories do not want to be seen to be supporting poor vulnerable people, because that would not sit well with their supporters, so creating an illusion of helping 'hard working families' to become owner occupiers is a nice little vote-earner. Next I am sure they will accuse private landlords of fuelling the 'swarms' of immigrants because we are the only ones who offer them decent homes from which to begin building their lives in the UK.
What surprises - no - annoys me most is the fantastic level of deliberate lying that the media is allowing to go unchallenged, such as only 1 in 5 landlords will be affected: poppycock! And landlords are willing to pay more for a property, thus squeezing out first time buyers: utter tripe! (Most landlords try to buy under market value). In a year or two, if Clause 24 remains, the true cost of this ridiculous policy will become clear, as councils collapse under the weight of homelessness and ex rental properties stand empty because there are insufficient buyers with the requisite deposit and who can meet the lending criteria. The Tories must be delighted that landlords (due entirely to the media) have replaced MPs as the most reviled section of society - for the moment

Dr Rosalind Beck

14:07 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Yes, well done Gareth for exposing this ill-thought out nonsense.

I wasn't a sucker when I rented as a student, I wasn't a sucker when I went to work for a year in Spain and rented a flat there or when I went to work in Germany as an au pair (easy to do because I was young and didn't have the commitment or means of owning a house), I wasn't a sucker when I returned to the UK and rented a room in London - moving several times as my job changed, so that I could be nearer to my workplace (sometimes I was able to leave with a week's notice), and I wasn't a sucker when I returned to the family home for a few years to save a deposit to buy my first home.

It is downright ignorant to make out that all tenants are frustrated buyers and it is only the nasty landlords stopping them. I never blamed landlords when I rented - I chose to rent and later save for a deposit, because these are choices. My brother made different choices and spent his money along the way - he doesn't now blame me for spending my money differently and owning property. He earned as much if not more than me so he knows it is not my fault that he doesn't own a property.

What rubbish these people keep spouting. I used to think journalists and writers were brighter than the police and used to marvel at their investigative and analytical powers; I don't anymore. I can see now that they often have very woolly knowledge and lack balance and reason.

Mark Alexander

14:22 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ros ." at "09/02/2016 - 14:07":

All very interesting point Ros.

I wasn't a sucker when I rented out my home in the early 90's because I could afford the 15% mortgage rates and couldn't sell it due to negative equity (it's now worth at least 300% what I paid for it by the way and I still own it).

I wasn't a sucker when I moved from that property and rented a small flat just to make ends meet.

And as regular Property118 readers will know, I'm emigrating to Malta this March. I will continue to run Property118, deal with my rental portfolio and to provide property finance, and associated tax and law consultancy from over there.

So why am I moving? Well partly for lifestyle, partly for tax reasons and partly because one of my Consultancy clients made me an offer to good to refuse not to live in Malta.

I haven't managed to sell my house yet so I've decided to rent in Malta for at least the first 12 months as this will enable me to decide where on the island I want to live, and to establish residency and qualify for a mortgage over there. That doesn't make me a sucker either!
.

Steven Burman

14:24 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

'It shall serve only as the cause of an even more serious, national housing crisis: a crisis which Cherie Blair’s intervention will be instrumental in avoiding.'......

Has the irony of having to engage the much maligned and ridiculed Cherie Blair escaped all you (previously) Tory voting, pompous, superior types?

Oh how Ms Blair must be chuckling to herself now!!

Andy Loveday

14:33 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Gareth, a well written response. It's informed responses like that which ensure that Property 118 continues to add value.

terry sullivan

14:37 PM, 9th February 2016
About 3 years ago

pls convince me of advantages of malta? gozo or main island?

thanx

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