Friday, July 03, 2009

Red Toryism - illiterate, ignorant and incomprehensible

Philip Blond, the so-called 'Red Tory', has just written an article setting out his new Big Idea for reducing poverty, which is about 'recapitalising the poor'.

These Big Ideas come along quite frequently, and there is quite an easy and quick way to test them out. Simply pick one policy area that you know about and see if the author's suggestions and analysis suggest they know what they are talking about. If so, read on, if not, bin the rest.

So here is Blond's 'Red Tory' approach to social housing:

"Councils have used their housing stock to generate cash income for benefit dependency for generations. By constantly raising rents, councils have created housing that the working poor cannot afford. Some sort of redress is required – a capital or asset credit, financed by a council bond, should be applied to those whose long-term benefit has, in effect, subsidised council receipts. This credit should be a tradable asset that, when conjoined with other new ventures such as community shares or social investment, can generate an asset effect for those whose routes out of poverty are presently so curtailed."

Leaving aside the atrocious writing style, this is total and utter drivel, even by the extremely low standards of most discussion about housing policy. Council rents are lower than rents in the private sector, whereas Blond appears to think they are 'unaffordable' for working people. The reason why very few working people can get a council house is because of the massive shortage of supply, not because of a conspiracy by councils to raise rents so that only people on housing benefits can afford the rent.

Based on this nonsense, he has a totally incomprehensible suggestion whereby councils will borrow money and give it to those of their tenants who have been on housing benefit for a long time. People will then be able to trade these capital credits, and this will give them a route out of poverty. They will get this (presumably) instead of housing benefit/Local Housing Allowance, because the idea is to move from spending on welfare to 'investment'. The kindest thing it is possible to say about this idea is that it doesn't address any of the problems that social housing tenants actually face.

Blond's other ideas seem at a first glance to be equally nonsensical, and he's been churning this sort of stuff out for months. But really, there is nothing to see here which is even worth beginning to engage with.

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