The Waugh Zone February 16, 2018

The five things you need to know about politics today.
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Today’s Waugh Zone is by Owen Bennett

1) No House Party

Turns out the housing crisis might not be just about millennials buying avocados, but the dramatic rise in property prices. I know, crazy idea, but bear with me.

The Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian all have front page stories today focused on an IFS report which claims young adults on middle incomes are much less likely to own their own home than they were 20 years ago.

According to the study, 65% of 25 to 34-year-olds with incomes in the middle 20% for their age owned their own home in the mid 1990s. By 2015–16, that had fallen to 27%.

This group of young adults have after-tax incomes (including the income of a partner) of between £22,200 and £30,600 per year. A third of them are university graduates, while 30% left school at 16. Three-quarters of them live with a partner, and around 60% have children.

The reason for the dramatic fall in home ownership is simple, according to the IFS’s Andrew Hood: “House prices have risen around seven times faster in real terms than the incomes of young adults over the last two decades.”

Former Tory planning minister Nick Boles – who has long called for the a home-building boom – has described the report as “an iceberg warning for Theresa May and the Conservative Party”, with younger voters preparing to “sink” the party at the next election.

What can be done? For all of the warm words of Theresa May and flashy announcements from Chancellor Philip Hammond at the end of last year, no policy was unveiled which would, in of itself, see work begin on building more homes immediately. Sajid Javid, who got the word Housing added to his Secretary of State title in the January reshuffle, tried his best to bounce Hammond into taking advantage of low interest rates and borrow to build ahead of the November Budget, but to no avail.

It is still one of the most baffling turnarounds in British politics that the party of Margaret Thatcher, who passionately spearheaded the notion of a property-owning democracy, and Harold Macmillan, who as housing minister oversaw a building boom in the early 1950s, is now seen as so anaemic when it comes to tackling the current crisis.

2) Slice Of Turkey

Along with that bus, the Vote Leave poster warning that “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU” is one of the enduring images of the referendum campaign. Now it seems that far from fearing what Turkey can bring to the EU, the UK should be learning from it.

The Institute of Directors, which represents 30,000 business leaders, is calling on the UK to adopt partial membership of the customs union, in the same way as Turkey does. The arrangement would see industrial goods and processed agricultural products covered by a customs deal, but other sectors would not be bound by the arrangement.

The report claims such a move would be good for business as it would remove “the need for UK manufacturing firms to face costly ‘rules of origin’ that could render a tariff-free deal meaningless for many companies in these sectors.”

In an attempt to head off criticism that such a deal could restrict the UK’s hand in trade negotiations with third countries, the report claims such deals would still be possible as agricultural tariffs would be excluded from the arrangement.

Tory MP Richard Graham, a member of the Brexit select committee and a UK trade envoy, told the Daily Telegraph that he believed such a solution was “spelling out in a bit more detail” what the Government is already looking at.

“In order to carry the vast bulk of the population with us the Government have to find a compromise,” he added.

3) ‘Doing A Leadsom’

Forced to resign from Labour’s frontbench last year after writing in The Sun that “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”, Sarah Champion has stirred up more controversy with her latest interview.

Speaking to The House magazine, the Rotherham MP claimed that it was statistically likely some MPs were either involved in, or knew people who were involved, child abuse.

She said: “One in 20 children will have a sexual assault against them.

“When you look at something inappropriate happening to them that drops dramatically to one in four girls and one in eight boys.

“That might be inappropriate language or made to feel uncomfortable or in a compromising situation – not necessarily being physically groped.

“So, there is no way that there aren’t people who are sitting MPs who aren’t involved in some way or another or a member of their family is.

“I mean, that’s just the reality and I know that’s very uncomfortable and no one wants to think about it.”

Aside from that claim, a comment which irked the Tories was an implication that tackling child abuse had dropped off Theresa May’s radar as she was not a parent.

“David Cameron got it and I think he got it because I went to him as a dad rather than going to him as a politician,” she said, later adding: “Theresa May was great when she was home secretary and then as soon as she shifted to PM it’s dropped off the radar. It’s clearly not a priority for them. It’s someone else’s problem.”

Tory MPs queued up to demand Champion apologise for the comments – dubbed ‘doing a Leadsom’ by The Spectator.

Conservative vice chair Helen Grant said: “This is an outrageous slur. From tackling the scourge of female genital mutilation to modern slavery and domestic violence, the PM has been at the forefront of driving efforts to crack down on abuse in all its forms.”

“Sarah Champion must apologise immediately and unreservedly for these disgraceful comments.”

This has been in my head for weeks now. It is my gift to you.

4) Money And Nothing

“Last time there were stage invasions, blows and somebody died.” That was in the operations note sent to journalists ahead of Ukip’s emergency general meeting due to be held in Birmingham tomorrow. Party activists will decide whether to oust leader Henry Bolton (ex-solider, ex-Lib Dem, ‘racist’-ex) or keep him in place and restructure the organisation. Not that there’s much to restructure, according to former leader Nigel Farage.

The MEP has written in The Telegraph: “Make no mistake, Ukip is collapsing.”

Farage backed Bolton to continue as leader in order to reform the party, but in the bald-men-fighting-over-a-comb analogy, there might not even be a comb soon.

A judge ruled yesterday the party must pay some of a £660,000 legal bill racked up after three Labour MPs brought a successful defamation case against Ukip MEP Jane Collins.

Mr Justice Warby found the party had initially played just a supportive role in the case, but said it then took a “deliberate, informed and calculated decision, for reasons of party political advantage, to ensure that the case was not settled before the general election”.

With Ukip barely able to afford a new leadership election, it may be that this bill is what finally kills off the party that helped deliver Brexit.

5) Jailhouse Chock

The John Worboys case has brought the issue of prisoner release front and centre of the public consciousness in recent weeks, and The Times today carries a report that thousands more criminals could be let out early.

The paper has learnt that thousands of offenders – including those serving sentences for violence, robbery, burglary and public order crimes – had not been offered the chance to leave prison under the home detention curfew (HDC) scheme.

Officials discovered that in 2016 some 9,041 eligible inmates, or 21%, were released under HDC while more than 35,000 missed out.

One source told the Times the motivation for pushing on with this scheme was entirely practical. “This is all about jails being full every single night. It is not conducive to stability for prisons to be in this state,” they said.

Alongside the Times story, the Justice Committee today published a report calling for inspectors to be given more funding to hold prison bosses and the government to account when jails have “urgent and serious failings”. It also called for for the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service to publish a plan to resolve persistent overcrowding, with 71 of 116 UK prisons currently overloaded with criminals.

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Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul Waugh, Ned Simons, Kate Forrester, Rachel Wearmouth and Owen Bennett.

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