Month: June 2021

The housing market is out of control: time to remove subsidies for speculation, and focus on real need

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The Royal College of Nursing points out that house prices have risen by 6 times the rate of increases in nurses’ pay over the last 6 years.

If older readers are tempted to congratulate themselves on the (unearned) increases in wealth this is bringing them, you should just remember the younger people squeezed out of the market altogether by never-ending price inflation, deliberately stoked by the Tory government as an alternative to sustainable economic growth (and to reward its voting base).

This latest frenzy is the result of a topsy-turvy system which encourages wealthy people to invest more and more money in property – unneeded extensions which increase the value of their homes, second homes, rental properties, holiday homes to rent. Yet however many 4-bedroom villas are built, it doesn’t produce better-quality, affordable housing either to buy or to rent, which the people shut out of the market need.

The housing market needs radical change and I am waiting for the first national party to grasp the nettle. As a mininum:

  1. Put capital gains tax on ALL property gains, including first homes – nurses’ pay is taxed, so why not unearned property gains?
  2. No schemes like stamp duty holidays which simply send the market crazy.
  3. Increase council tax on second homes and make local bans easier where communities want them.
  4. Stop developers land banking – force them to build where permission has been given, or remove the permission.
  5. A national plan to ensure adequate housing for all – not a planning free-for-all which rewards landowners and developers while harming our environment.

Advice on aerosols, ventilation and making work/school spaces safe

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It is now understood that Covid is mainly aerosol-transmitted – imagine it like smokers’ exhalations spreading in inside environments. This page links to simple videos giving crucial advice on how to make spaces safe.

A great victory for the Lib Dems – and the Progressive Alliance. Let’s follow it up in East Devon.

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Peter Brooke in The Times

The Lib Dems have scored a great by-election victory in Amersham, helped by Labour and Green voters putting the Progressive Alliance into effect by voting tactically to defeat the Conservative.

Voters in two areas of East Devon have an opportunity to follow suit on July 8th, in two EDDC by-elections, which are crucial for keeping the progressive alliance in control on the council. In Feniton, the Lib Dem, Todd Olive, is best placed to win, while in Honiton, it is Labour’s Jake Bonetta. I hope progressive voters in these two wards will unite around these candidates. Let’s show Boris Johnson that the blue wall is crumbling in Devon too!

Tactical voting is great, but we still need agreements between parties

It’s important to remember that this was a by-election, which is why the Lib Dems were able to do a lot better than they did in the same area in May’s nationwide local elections. In the general election, Labour and Green candidates will take votes back from the Lib Dems in Amersham, while stay-at-home Tories may come out again, as the national campaigns for all the parties kick in.

So the Lib Dems may struggle to hang on to the seat, as has happened before after by-election victories, and Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, was wrong to say that we don’t need arrangements between parties. Labour and the Greens could make it much easier for the Lib Dems to consolidate their by-election victory, in return for similar gestures elsewhere.

Under First Past The Post, we need a Progressive Alliance with two pillars: progressive voters to rally around a single candidate AND agreements between parties to give the strongest anti-Tory candidate the best chance.

Proposed new Honiton constituency offers the opposition a chance – let’s have an open Progressive Primary to select a candidate

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The Boundary Commission’s proposal of a new Honiton parliamentary constituency (name in red, red boundaries in above map), stretching from Axmouth to Cullompton and Sidmouth to Yarcombe, and including the Seaton and Colyton area, gives the opposition to Conservative misrule an opportunity to get its act together and send Neil Parish on his way to early retirement.

Because the new constituency is more compact and (apart from Cullompton) it is all in East Devon district, it will be easier to campaign in, and the various opposition forces know each other through local politics. On the record of recent general elections in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency, it should be very safe for the Tories, and it is not obvious that any of the opposition forces, by themselves, can defeat them. Labour have been second in the last three elections in Tiv & Hon, but very far behind.

HOWEVER the constituency includes Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth, the base from which Claire Wright ran the Tories ever closer between 2015 and 2019, and all the constituency’s towns – Seaton, Axminster, Sidmouth, Ottery, Honiton and Cullompton – are represented by opposition councillors at district level, while in several the Tories were run close in the recent county elections.

If the opposition parties and Independents stand against each other at the next General Election, a Tory victory is a foregone conclusion. But what if we have a Progressive Alliance between the main opposition forces, and an open PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY in which supporters of a united opposition candidate sign up to vote for the best person to stand against the Tory candidate?

This would be a fair and democratic way to decide who the standard-bearer should be. The person who’s voted in will have the wider legitimacy of being chosen by several thousand local people and supported by all the parties and groups which have signed up to the project. There will be none of the divisive arguments about tactical voting that marred Claire Wright’s campaign.

What’s not to like? Obviously, this goes against current Labour, Lib Dem and Green approaches to elections. But we have two years, perhaps, to persuade the parties to change.

To those who say this is unrealistic – how else can we dislodge the Tories under First Past The Post in areas like this?

(PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: I am NOT interested in standing.)

The reopening is now under threat, after Johnson made the same mistake yet again

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Everyone who is looking forward to further relaxation of restrictions could be in for a big shock, it seems, as the new Delta (Indian) variant of Covid is spreading rapidly and has caused the beginnings of a surge in cases nationwide – not just in Bolton.

It is beyond mind-boggling that Boris Johnson could have yet again made the same mistake of not controlling entry to the UK from places where the virus is widespread – this time from India. It was clear in March that there was a huge epidemic there, and on 1st April the UK knew that the new variant was arriving. But it was only on 23rd April that the Government put India on the red list.

In those 22 days, and indeed over the previous month, travellers were arriving in numbers from India and as a result the new variant started to spread in parts of the UK. Now it has become dominant in lots of places – not yet in East Devon, but it is in Teignbridge and Exeter, among others.

The surge is small at the moment but the current level of restrictions does not appear to be slowing it much. All this points to tightening, not lifting, as the Government’s next move. Moreover, if the vaccinations do not protect so fully against this variant, which has been suggested by experts, these decisions will have put the gains of the programme at risk.

People talk as though Johnson’s pandemic mistakes, which Dominic Cummings highlighted last week, were in the past. But they are still threatening our safety and our chances of resuming normal life.