POLITICS
13/09/2013 08:33 BST | Updated 13/09/2013 08:38 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Call To Cap House Prices

PA
For sales signs outside properites in Brunswick Square, Brighton. 06/02/04: First-time buyers are adopting a risky approach to buying their first home as they become increasingly desperate to get on to the property ladder, research showed today. People buying their first house are less likely to have a survey done, take out a fixed rate mortgage or make an offer below the asking price than other buyers, according to Yorkshire Bank. 13/04/2004: House prices in the UK fell by 1% during February

The five things you need to know on Friday 13 September 2013...

1) CALL TO CAP HOUSE PRICES

Let the market rip! Or maybe not. At least not the mortgage market - from the Independent's splash:

"Britain’s leading chartered surveyors have made an unprecedented call for the Bank of England to put a cap on annual house price inflation in order to avoid a 'dangerous' debt bubble.

"The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) argues in a report published today that the Bank should consider imposing a five per cent limit in annual average house price appreciation. If prices rise faster, RICS argues that the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee should use its new suite of regulatory powers to make mortgage lending scarcer and more expensive."

The paper notes how

"RICS’ call is likely to add fuel to the burning debate over the wisdom of a new Government mortgage subsidy scheme which is due to come into operation in January. George Osborne dismissed talk of a UK house price bubble in a speech earlier this week, pointing out that house prices, adjusted for inflation, are still down by a quarter from their peak level in 2007... But the Business Secretary Vince Cable this week said the Treasury should reconsider its extension of those subsidies."

Isn't the bigger issue that we simply don't have - and aren't building - enough houses? Shouldn't that be the focus of government policy and media debate?

2) ASSAD TO BLAME?

From the Times splash:

"UN inspectors will point the finger of blame at the Assad regime for a deadly chemical weapons strike that threatens to drag the US and other Western powers into the Syria conflict.

"The report, due to be published on Monday, will include a wealth of evidence that a chemical nerve agent was used in the attack, according to sources.

"Such a finding will throw President Putin on to the back foot..."

Will it? Here are three reasons why I suspect it won't: 1) the UN inspectors, as the hawks have constantly pointed out up until this point, aren't allowed to apportion blame, only to determine whether a chemical attack happened, so how will they "point the finger of blame at the Assad regime"?; 2) Putin will continue to claim the rebels did it, regardless of what the UN (or, for that matters, Human Rights Watch) says; 3) the reason Putin is on the front foot isn't because there is confusion over responsibility for the Ghouta attack on 21 August. It's because he, not Obama or Cameron or Hollande, has western public opinion on his side - almost all of the polls in recent weeks suggest most voters won't back military action even if Assad is found to have used chemical weapons. Voters seem to get what the hawks don't: military action isn't a solution. Not to the use of chemical weapons, and not to the Syrian civil war. See my latest column on the need for diplomacy on Syria here.

3) 'SERIOUSLY UNHELPFUL'

It's not new for Matthew Oakeshott, the Lib Dem peer, to call for Nick Clegg to quit, as he does in the most recent issue of House magazine, on the eve of Lib Dem conference. But it IS new for his bezzie mate, Vince Cable, to basically disown him.

From the Telegraph:

"Vince Cable was last night forced to distance himself from a key ally after Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer, called for Nick Clegg to be replaced as party leader.

"In a move designed to weaken Mr Clegg ahead of next week's Lib Dem party conference, Lord Oakeshott warned that the Deputy Prime Minister's ratings "are very poor and have been for a long time".

"He indicated that he believes Mr Cable, the Business Secretary, would be an ideal successor and compared Mr Clegg with Michael Foot, the former Labour leader who led his party to a crushing general election defeat in 1981.

"... Mr Cable last night condemned Lord Oakeshott's intervention as 'seriously unhelpful'... He said: 'Matthew is an independent–minded member of the House of Lords, with his own views. He does not speak for me. His comments were seriously unhelpful.'"

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Ever had a fake professor? Watch this video of what happened when a mature student called Patrick rather brilliantly fooled his fellow classmates at the University of Rochester in New York - and make sure you watch 'til the end.

4) ALL IN THE FAMILY

As the cost of MPs' expenses is reported to have soared by an inflation-busting 7 per cent, due to rising staff costs, the Mail splashes on:

"The number of MPs employing family members has soared by nearly a fifth in a year.

"Despite fury over parliamentary expenses, 155 MPs – nearly one in four – now have wives, children and even parents on the public payroll. The relatives enjoy salaries as high as £50,000 for office duties – costing taxpayers £4million last year.

"Among senior Tories enjoying the perk are Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Chief Whip Sir George Young and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. The latter two are millionaires and earn more than £130,000 a year."

When are the rules going to change? How long will this rather dodgy system whereby MPs employ spouses or kids on massive salaries continue? The mind boggles...

5) 'TOTALITARIAN'? SAY IT AIN'T SO, NIGE

Normally it's Nigel Farage who gets to call people Nazi or dictatorial or totalitarian. Not this time. Now, the Ukip leader is on the receiving end of such criticism (abuse?). The Guardian reports:

"A former deputy leader of Ukip has resigned from the party and accused Nigel Farage of running a "totalitarian" organisation.

"Mike Nattrass, a Ukip MEP in the West Midlands, gave up his membership after the party said he could not stand again in next year's European elections because he failed a candidate test."

The paper adds:

"Nattrass is now the third MEP to resign since the party won 13 seats in the 2009 European elections, after two previously defected to the Tories."

As Oscar Wilde almost said: to lose one MEP may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose three just looks like carelessness.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Cool it." - Ken Clarke reveals to journalists what he told Boris Johnson at last year's Tory party conference, amid speculation over a Boris leadership bid.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 34

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 44.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@StewartWood Interesting debate between economists & Royal Inst of Chartered Surveyors on how to deflate the housing bubble. No debate that there is one.

@GregHands 4:47am and the first plane noisily overhead. I am up anyway, but night flights are what most of my constituents struggle to live with.

‏@NancyPelosi Hopefully, when Pres. #Putin says "we must not forget that God created us equal" he includes gays and lesbians in Russia.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Even Labour supporters don’t think that Ed Miliband’s up to it."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Liberalism triumphs while Lib Dems sink."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "A Labour win is still on – if alienated Tories and Lib Dems play ball."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol