Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The TimesMake Text Bigger
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.
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 investments” are 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.
— Mark Alexander (@iAmALandlord) February 9, 2016
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