Here is our analysis of what Boris Johnson had to say at the fringe of the 2018 Tory Conference. Bear with us, because this is going to be quite long. We have put some links in red to particular points in his speech. Do come back here after the sound bite. We’ve listened to it all for you, thank us and move on.
Boris Johnson started as he meant to go on, making an assertion with no basis in truth. We are led to believe that he had the finest education this country could provide, Eton and Oxford, yet he comes out with this nonsense, praising “a thousand years of independence“. Let us think back 1000 years, that’ll be around 1066, when this country was invaded by the French. Then the ‘ordinary people’ of whom Boris is so proud suffered hundreds of years of oppression under William the Conqueror and his descendants. Have a look at what the Harrying of the North meant for this part of the country if you want to understand Conservative regional policy.
He later complains that “We have more choice than we can shake a stick at”. Here’s the reality for our young people:
- The proportion of young people reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 18% in the period 2009 to 2010 to 21% in 2013 to 2014; young women were more likely than young men to report symptoms of anxiety or depression.
- On social connections, the proportion of young people who said they had someone to rely a lot on, decreased from 80% in the period 2010 to 2011 to 76% in 2013 to 2014
Taken from: the Government’s own information.
Then some more rubbish: “Life expectancy is a lot longer.” A government statistician begs to differ:
“As people have been living longer we have seen steady increases in life expectancy for many decades. However, since 2011 these increases have been slowing down across the four UK countries, and this has been driven particularly by slower improvements for females and those aged 90 years and over. With people living longer and surviving other illnesses, the number of people developing dementia is increasing.”
“Mortality rates at younger ages (under 55 years) have increased over the last few years in the UK, although this age group has a smaller influence on the overall picture.”
Sophie Sanders, Office for National Statistics
Yet another counter-factual assertion from Boris related to housing: “the building and control of state-owned housing – are diametrically opposed to the interests of most families“. Let’s see how that works out in practice.
The number of new households each year has exceeded the number of homes built in every year since 2008, and the gap has grown in recent years, new dwellings (bars) by tenure, and new households (line), 1972-2013 (projections of new households to 2020).
According to Local Government Association analysis, just one new home is built for every five sold under right to buy. There are now just 2 million council homes left in Britain – down from 6.5 million when Right to Buy was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980, although a number of factors are behind the fall.
- Four in 10 right-to-buy homes are now owned by private landlords (Freedom of information (FoI) requests sent to 111 English local authorities by Inside Housing magazine reveal that 40.2% of housing stock sold by councils to then tenants are now rented out, rising to 70.9% in Milton Keynes, which it dubs the “right-to-buy-to-let capital” of England.)
- Tenants living in homes sold under Margaret Thatcher’s scheme now pay twice the rents charged by local authorities (Seven councils – Milton Keynes, Bolsover, Brighton & Hove, Canterbury, Cheshire West and Chester, Stevenage, and Nuneaton & Bedworth – have letting levels of more than 50% among former council-owned homes.) Of course, much of this rent is paid to private landlords from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. This amounts to a state subsidy to the landlords, who have taken homes out of the affordable social renting sector
- Thatcher promised that right to buy would result in a property-owning democracy, but with so many homes now sold on to landlords, critics say the government has been left paying huge amounts of housing benefit to buy-to-let landlords charging high rents.
- Council homes were built as a benefit for the nation and not the benefit of an individual family. The policy has created a short-term gain for individual households but a long-term problem for the nation in terms of the supply of affordable homes. By selling on their homes or renting them out at market rates, some individuals have made a substantial profit from what was once a public asset.
- During periods when the property market slumps former council tenants that bought their own homes are often the first to suffer. The relatively cheap value of former council homes means that owners often get caught in negative equity where the value of their home is worth less than their mortgage. Former council homes can often be difficult to sell, so in some cases it can actually be more difficult for a right-to-buy leaseholder to move out of an unpopular area than a council tenant.
- The right-to-buy is open to abuse. Private property companies have profited from the policy in a scam that involves luring tenants into buying their council homes with the offer of cash incentives. Under the scam, the former tenants move out as soon as they have bought their homes to allow it to be let to someone else at market rates.
- The success of the policy has further stigmatised and excluded those households that can not afford to buy and increased the gap between rich and poor. Before the right-to-buy there was less of a stigma about rent
Boris carries on cranking out the porkies: “the Conservative approach not only delivers more homes for private purchase, it delivers more affordable homes as well”.
A little bit of research shows us that yearly affordable housing supply has been generally lower in recent years than it was in the late 2000s. The number of affordable homes being added rose year-on-year from 2006/07 to 2010/11. From 2012/13, the number fell sharply, to the lowest level since 2004/05. It has remained at a similar level in all but one year since (2014/15), when an exceptionally high number of affordable homes were added.
There’s a lot more guff in Boris’s output. He went on about the Cons being the party of business, showering his admiration here on the grafters and grifters who shape this economy. Hang on Boris! “grifter” is surely another name for a con man or fraudster? OK, as you were. You clearly love them too. We all remember your “£350 million for the NHS” fraud on the side of the bus.
He finally got round to the post-Brexit economy: “Our trade with Latin America is way behind our competitors”. Now let’s look at what he is saying here. Who are these competitors who have surged ahead of the UK in their trade with Latin America? We don’t know on what statistical basis Boris is making this assertion, so our guess is that he is talking about China, the US, Japan, France, Germany and Italy. According to the Brexiters’ narrative, EU member states will only be able to trade freely and successfully once they have exited the EU. So, Boris, who is exporting all those Mercedes, BMWs, Fiats and Renaults to Latin America? I know it’s not the UK, but who can be so free from EU constraints?
According to Boris, the Chequers agreement amounts to “forfeiting control” over the terms on which our goods will be sold. Hang on a minute! I thought we had no control, and we needed to leave the EU to take back control. Now we are ‘forfeiting control’, what is it Boris? Do we already have control and Theresa May is forfeiting it? Or are we taking back control with Brexit? Make your mind up!
Finally, we get to some of the things Boris forgot to mention. In no particular order:
- the North of England
- prospects for our youth
- tackling unemployment
- regional development
- and so on
There is so much more we could discuss, but I sense I am losing your attention. One more fun fact: Caratacus was a British chieftain, captured and dragged off in chains by the evil empire. Perhaps Boris is drawing his heroic future as a martyr defending our national cause.
I’ll leave you with another Tory Grandee. Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech of 1990 is, of course, legendary. He was clearly a remainer, quoting former Tory PM, Harold Macmillan: “As long ago as 1962, he argued that we had to place and keep ourselves within the EC. He saw it as essential then, as it is today, not to cut ourselves off from the realities of power; not to retreat into a ghetto of sentimentality about our past and so diminish our own control over our own destiny in the future.”
Written and compiled by Judith and Gerald Dennett