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The Tory Manifesto: When You Ask For Housing, And Get Magic Beans

15/04/2015 12:13 BST | Updated 14/06/2015 10:59 BST

So, imagine that you and four mates are popping into ASDA on the way to a party. You've each got a quid, and you're heading for the 'one pound a can' offer in the drink aisle. When you get there you spot another sign - twenty cans for a fiver. What course of action makes best business sense?

You don't have to be high school student from Singapore to work it out. 'Bulk Buying' and 'Making the Most of Economies of Scale' are chapter titles in Business for Beginners. No successful retailer is buying stock in individual units. The first thing any entrepreneur says when they're ordering fifty new tyres or a hundred replacement windows is 'can you do me a deal?'

So, let us consider that you and your four mates are all living on the same street. You return from your party and discover that your boiler has broken down - and so have all of theirs. You could, individually, call up a private plumber and each pay the cost per item. Or, you could ring up a firm with the offer of a lucrative five site contract and ask 'can you do us a deal?'

Now, consider that one of your mates actually owns a plumbing firm. Would you phone a different firm, and pay a price that covers their advertising, expansion plans and profits, or would you take your mate up on an offer to do it for parts and labour? And, while you're thinking about it, wouldn't you rather that your mate, when ordering the parts, did it as a bulk order and asked 'can you do me a deal?'

If you are bored with this, it's probably because it's all so obvious. Yes, you'd go for the deal. You'd go for the deal on drinks, boilers, holidays, hula-hoops - but not housing. When it comes to our house, we don't want to share the cost, apparently.

I can only conclude that our attitude to social housing has very little to do with economics. If we thought with our head as opposed to whatever organ responds to advertising, we'd probably question how much we really want to own a house.

Unless you are wealthy enough to afford a bespoke mansion with a slide (...one day...) you are probably already compromising your dream for whatever two-up two-down reality you can almost afford. As any low paid worker will tell you, the mortgage payments are only the tip of the financial iceberg when you're responsible for the building. Contrary to various myths, you can redecorate council houses and have pets there and smoke if you want to - really, no takers? Not one?

Owning a home is apparently a universal aspiration. It is so unthinkable that anyone should want anything else, the Tories can base a manifesto launch on the promise of pushing more people into home ownership. This argument, and the confidence with which it is delivered, is based on a social fact rather than economic truth. We aspire to the brand of home ownership. We think council housing is common. We can't aspire to living in social housing, even if it is aspiring to a more comfortable, secure life than the home ownership we can't really afford.

I won't attempt to alter the image of council housing. I won't even ask you to set the image aside to consider the logic of social housing. But I will ask why The Conservative Party haven't.

Would a government with good business sense sell off their assets for less than market value and leave households to meet all costs individually? This is supposed to be the party of Economic Security. They're supposed to have the business nous. If that were true, wouldn't they put the perception of council housing aside and at least consider if there was a more cost effective, less risky way to increase living standards?

Instead, they celebrate doing the exact opposite. Being blinded by perception, reducing our nationally owned assets and lumbering people with more bills is, in fact, their greatest achievement. They don't question it, they don't bother to defend it, they just smile and read the sales script and convince us that we'd prefer if our rent rates included chunk of profit. Just as they convinced us we would rather 'own' the railways, as one day they'll be offering the 'security' of private health insurance, as conmen have been offering a share of the Brooklyn bridge to tourists for generations. They are asking us (again) to pay for something we already effectively owned. And if they aren't setting out to trick us, the only possibility is that they've genuinely fallen for it.

You have to ask yourself how much business sense that really demonstrates.