Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

11:12 AM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago 50

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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  – 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.

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14:50 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Great rebuttal Gareth. I couldn't resist responding to her stupidity in The Times.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

14:59 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "terry sullivan" at "09/02/2016 - 14:37":

I might be able to do convince you about Malta a year from now, meanwhile the choices were personal to me based on the offer made by my Consultancy client. We also looked into Portugal and Cyprus.

Appalled Landlord

15:42 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Simon Griffith" at "09/02/2016 - 12:08":

Hi Simon

You did not miss much. One of the things Claire Foges wrote was: “Tax reliefs on mortgage payments for owner-occupiers were abolished in 2000 but remained for buy-to-let.”

This echoes both the misinformation from David Kingman’s propaganda for the Intergeneration Foundation:

and the deceitful “justification” of Clause 24 by Osborne on 8 July last:

Only civil servants in the Treasury describe mortgage interest as a tax relief. That is because they arrogantly consider that any money which comes into a business’s bank account is taxable; they magnanimously allow the business’s costs to be deducted as a “relief”. They have even begun recently to describe some of our costs as “generous reliefs”!

However, those in the business world (who pay the civil servants’ salaries etc.) describe mortgage interest as a cost of doing business. It is deducted from gross receipts in the profit calculation, just as it is for every other enterprise in the country.

This comparison with tax reliefs on mortgage payments for owner-occupiers is a false one, for reasons that can be found in the second comment on the second link above.

Claire Foges also complains that “Maintenance and insurance costs were offset against tax.” I assume this was just sloppy writing (from a graduate in English: )

I assume that she knows that maintenance and insurance costs are deducted from gross receipts. The fact that she finds this generally accepted accounting practice unusual is rather worrying in someone who was the chief speechwriter to the Prime Minister.

Cameron and Osborne had no worthwhile business experience before they rose to prominence without trace. They are immune, through their family wealth, from the problems of tenants and FTB’S. What influence have ignorant people like Claire Foges and David Kingman had on them? Are the dumb leading the dumb?

Dr Rosalind Beck

15:48 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I have added my voice to yours Gareth, with the following sent to the Times and Ms Foges copied in. It would be good if others could also write even if it a brief condemnation of the Times' bias against 'individual' landlords. We have already seen the gross bias in the Conservative Party through exempting their BTL mates (who donate to their party) - could it be that the Times is being similarly influenced behind the scenes?

'To whom it may concern

I write with regard to Clare Foges' long letter about buy-to-let and Clause 24 of the Finance Act specifically. This is yet another biased and deeply flawed exposition which you have published, following on from Ian Cowie's celebratory article in the Sunday Times where he took the 'credit' for the Government's attack on 'individual' landlords (actually the policy was promoted by the Green Party many months before the election, so Mr Cowie was in fact stealing the credit). Neither he nor Ms Foges seem to mind incorporated landlords providing exactly the same service being exempt from the new 'Alice in Wonderland' tax, whereby 'individual' landlords will pay tax on the money they have paid to their mortgage lenders as though it were profit rather than the biggest business expense; the Government wants the profit from our businesses, but does not want us to be able to offset the cost of producing that profit.

So now we have the letter by Ms Foges where she mentions the grounds for the current legal challenge against the Government being the unfair advantages awarded to institutional buy-to-let but then offers no critique as to why or how this could be justified, just as the Government remains silent on this. This is not therefore even a poor argument; it is no argument at all.

Ian Cowie's article was of an equivalent poor quality. With this level of argument in its articles the Times' journalistic integrity, independence and competence in covering financial matters must be open to serious question. Indeed, Ian Cowie suggested that the Times' position was to support Clause 24. Does that mean it will present no opposing argument? Even if that argument is eminently more sensible than this ludicrous tax?

For ease of reference, I draw your attention to the key points he made and my view of his argument below. I believe the Times has to review how its journalism is going downhill with each of these landlord-bashing articles it publishes. No regard is being given to the effect that Clause 24 is going to have on millions of tenants (see the article lower down, where you will see what I mean).

I look forward to reading soon an article which gives the private landlords' point of view. You may contact me with regard to this and/or I can put you in touch with the two landlords, Steve Bolton and Chris Cooper, who are hoping to take the Government to court and reverse this 'Alice in Wonderland' policy (that the Times is currently supporting, much to its shame and to landlords' chagrin).

Yours sincerely.
Dr Rosalind Beck'

And excellent post by AL just above this. About sums it up.

Mandy Thomson

15:50 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Just after the credit crunch, when I was still a civil servant, everyone was gunning for civil servants in much the same way as they are now gunning for landlords. Similar smears were made, "lazy", "not real work / proper jobs" "pampered" etc. Then of course the Brown government brought the axe down on public services, even my agency, Land Registry, which was self financing.

Those in power are always happy to find a scapegoat that has outlived its usefulness, at least, as they believe the voters might see it...

Big Blue

16:20 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

The letter from Foges was both laughable and enraging at the same time. It was nothing short of disgraceful, but more disgraceful will be if The Times refuses to publish a rebuttal.

This was a 1-dimensional, largely fictitious piece of imagination passed off as serious journalistic opinion; a student essay written by someone who had only ever studied the subject by entering 'I hate landlords' on Google and spending around 3 minutes crudely copying some choice quotes. The sheer incompetence, lack of depth, reason or understanding, coupled with a mix of insults to tenants and a reference to how attractive she thinks herself only proves that this is nowhere near journalism and nothing at all The Times should be associated with. If I said she ought to be writing a fiction column for 'Take A Break' magazine, I'd be seriously insulting the integrity of such publications.

Ms Foges hasn't the first clue about the work, stress, huge financial risk or 24-hr service that goes into this business, yet strangely sees herself as ably qualified to attack it's integrity - an integrity she herself seems to lack. Tenants as 'suckers', eh? Maybe we should tell them all she said that?! And if any landlord ever sees this preening, idiotic, over-privileged and under-brained narcissist applying for their property, they should turn her down out of principle.

I do hope she knows of this thread... and that as many of us as possible tell The Times how incompetent she is. I certainly intend to!

Mandy Thomson

16:46 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "James Fraser" at "09/02/2016 - 16:20":


She's both left leaning and against BTL... Perhaps her next piece will be for House Price Crash.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

16:52 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I wonder if Clare Foges wrote the speech for David Cameron that he gave a while back in Singapore (I think) which advocated foreign investment into UK property?

If anybody can find the speech on YouTube please post a link here.

Big Blue

16:57 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

My letter to The Times has just been sent.


I refer to the letter by Clare Foges and the staggering lack of knowledge or integrity contained therein. I am further surprised that The Times saw fit to publish such one-dimensional and ill-researched, not to mention offensive, drivel better suited to the pages of some half-wit tea break magazine.

Foges regurgitates the usual anti-landlord media fiction, making several assumptions on the way. A property she supposedly viewed (pausing only to tell us how attractive she thought she was to the agent) was no doubt 'snapped up' by an investor. Apart from the fact that we can debate that point alone for hours - with several real facts and research thrown in - it didn't dissuade her from then complaining that it might have been someone's 'home', clearly missing the fact that whatever the tenure, that's exactly what it would have become!

She goes on to assert that the tenants are 'suckers' to be renting their - er - 'home' without the slightest thought for, or knowledge of, those that can't or don't wish to buy. The inference here is that only owner-occupation matters and that her own self-interest in living there as an owner somehow trumps the rights of the millions of renters who also might fancy the opportunity of living there but can't buy the place themselves. Where might she suggest the displaced tenants go when clause 24 renders them homeless? It's of no consequence to Foges, as long as she is given more opportunity to buy.

This is the great myth of Clause 24, namely that tenants everywhere will automatically become homeowners. How? How, when they'll all presumably be fighting for the properties confiscated from landlords? How, when they are immigrants, the poor, unable to get a mortgage because of the MMR, or choosing to rent as they study or build a career or pursue a business opportunity?

Foges also sucks up to the myth of great wealth, greed and privilege amongst landlords, qualities she possibly is in close touch with herself but are utterly unrepresentative of the teachers, firemen, driving instructors and child-minders that make up the landlords I know.

Tenants are to be laughed at, the working classes providing for their pensions reviled. Is this how Foges and The Times views the world? Shameful.

James Fraser

Sent from my iPhone

Sent from my iPhone

Dr Rosalind Beck

17:07 PM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "James Fraser" at "09/02/2016 - 16:57":

Excellent, Jamie. If anyone else can add their voice to this we have more chance of getting this bias in the Times changed.

In the automatic reply one receives from the Times, they write the following (which we could go to town on):

'We depend entirely on input from our readers in order to maintain the high standard of coverage that you expect from us on the issues that matter.'

Perhaps a few people from here can write and remind them of this fact and how they are falling short?

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