I’m trying to get out of the habit of being publicly mean about terrible press releases. It’s cheap, it’s self-indulgent, and it doesn’t require either intellectual effort or journalistic skill to point out that a stupid thing someone has said is stupid.
On the other hand, I’ve had three hours sleep, I can barely remember how verbs work, and this is a really terrible press release, so screw it.
Here’s the topline: the landlord lobby is very disappointed in Theresa May’s Conservative party. In fact, if the Tories don’t change their ways, then, well, the landlords will, well, they’ll do something, and then they’ll be sorry.
James Davis, CEO and founder of online lettings agency, Upad.co.uk, comments on the shock General Election result:
“The landlord bashing is only likely to continue with Theresa May forming a deal with the DUP to allow her to continue leading the country. There were no new pledges set out to help struggling landlords in her manifesto.”
Okay, let me stop you right there. The Tory party didn’t create either the buy to let bubble or the housing crisis it’s a part of (thanks, Tony Blair). But for the last seven years, they’ve presided over the expansion of both.
Despite some half-hearted attempts to revoke the rentiers’ privileges towards the end of George Osborne’s time as chancellor, this government has overseen a massive unearned boom in house prices. Landlords have been able to make large quantities of money on the basis of very little effort. Renters, on the other hand, have had to pay over ever larger chunks of their flatlining incomes in exchange for neither assets nor securities.
So what exactly are the landlords whining about? What do they want? A medal?
It gets worse.
“The Tories have proven that they can’t be trusted by landlords; as they continue to use them as a political football to kick around. I certainly wouldn’t let one of my properties out to a Tory as you can’t trust them!”
That exclamation mark is genuinely included in the quote, people.
1. I’m not quite clear on the legalities of asking someone’s political affiliation before renting a room to them, but it feels like fairly dodgy ground to me.
2. You do know that the Tories making these decisions aren’t renting, right?
“Whilst the Conservatives have recognised that the 8 million tenants in the UK are worth supporting politically…”
Here is the full extent of the Tory manifesto’s promises to renters:
“We will also improve protections for those who rent, including by looking at how we increase security for good tenants and encouraging landlords to offer longer tenancies as standard.”
I mean they’re basically manning the barricades, aren’t they? Arm yourself, Francine, the sans-culottes are coming.
“… what they don’t seem to realise is that the changes they want to bring about for landlords, will eventually through the test of time affect tenants far more through higher rents.”
Well, no, I’m not buying this. Rents are set by the interaction between the supply of housing, the demand for that housing, and tenants’ abilities to pay. Landlords’ costs don’t come into it. The idea that they do implicitly assumes that the market would bear higher rents, but landlords don’t charge them because [reasons]. Surely more likely is that landlord-ing would become slightly less profitable, which, while annoying if you’re a landlord, is not likely to bother anyone else.
The weirdest thing about this press release is… What is James Davis, CEO and founder of online lettings agency Upad.co.uk, threatening exactly? Is he saying landlords are going to vote en masse for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party? Because he doesn’t say this explicitly, but if that’s not what he’s saying, this isn’t much of a threat is it?
I don’t think the Tory manifesto did go in for landlord bashing, if I’m honest. But if it had, I don’t think it would have been much of a problem. Landlords are among the safest groups in Britain to bash: nobody really likes them, they add very little to the economy, and they can’t take their business offshore. If there’s one group you absolutely can get away with being mean about, it’s landlords.
So we should do more of it, that’s what I’m saying.
Where was I going with this? I’ve had three hours sleep. Did I mention that?
Nope, can’t think of an ending. Please go read my thoughts on the election over on the New Statesman instead.
Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.
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