Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gordon Fiddles While Our Home Values Burn; Shared Embarrassment: The Prime Minister Takes a Photo Opportunity to Chat to Dominic Bradley, Who Bought His Ealing Home through a Shared Ownership Scheme

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gordon Fiddles While Our Home Values Burn; Shared Embarrassment: The Prime Minister Takes a Photo Opportunity to Chat to Dominic Bradley, Who Bought His Ealing Home through a Shared Ownership Scheme

Article excerpt

Byline: NEIL COLLINS

ALAS, the poor Darling. He's a pathetic sight, frantically touring the TV studios, trying to appear in charge, when everyone can see the strings on the puppet. Well, once a control freak, always a control freak. Gordon Brown, whose record as Chancellor looks more like luck than judgment with every passing day, could never resist micro-managing. He festooned his Budgets with fiddly concessions which provided jobs for pen-pushers, benefited the few not the many, and only made life more difficult. Now he's at it again.

As with so many of his pettifogging policy ideas, some lucky people might benefit from the Mortgage Rescue Scheme, some less lucky people will be sucked into buying a house in a falling market by the stamp-duty cut or an interest-free loan under Homebuy Direct, and a few much luckier people will get into "affordable" housing, effectively being given an asset which is too valuable ever to give up.

There may be worse to come. Brown is said to be saving up a state-backed mortgage scheme to revive his fortunes at the forthcoming party conference, and he might even tell his Chancellor about it beforehand. As for Darling's Guardian interview last weekend "They're pissed off, and so am I" we are so unused to a Chancellor trying to tell the truth we were shocked to hear it. After a decade of Brown bludgeoning with his Pollyanna view of the economy, it came as something of a relief.

Chancellors aren't cheerleaders. They are practitioners of the dismal science of deciding where scarce resources should go, and those resources are going to get scarcer in the next year or so. We are not facing the worst prospect for 60 years, but house prices are still much too high, and the Government should concentrate on managing the decline with the minimum pain, rather than trying to prop them up.

The stamp-duty holiday repeats a Tory mistake, and a Treasury post-mortem on their 1991 suspension of the tax concluded it had made matters worse. …

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