Three absurdities: 2) selling off council houses

And another absurdity –

I’ve been reading (Prospect magazine, on the future of cities) about Porto, in Portugal, and how the mayor, Rui Moriera, ‘has pledged not to sell a single council house and instead invest in a programme of renovations and converting derelict buildings into new ones’.

‘We could easily make 10% of our budget every year by selling houses. If you do that you can build a lot of bridges and lots of mayors like that. But it will kill the city. The city will lose all the flair that attracted people in the first place.’

The government here plans the further sale of council houses, and new bridges are planned for London of course. And in time as we lose the social mix, and city-centre estates are replaced by new ‘mixed-use’ developments, London will lose its flair.

In London, and across the country, building more social housing, allowing councils to start building again, encouraging housing associations, has to be the way forward. Not obliging them to sell off their stock, when housing is a vital commodity, more than that, fundamental to our future, and existing private sector plans simply aren’t coping.

Doctinaire considerations – private over public – bid down the practical. (See my third blog, my third absurdity.)

Three political issues – getting it wrong

One or two political issues – London, and election for mayor coming up this summer, and the Europe referendum. And a third – Adidas withdrawing athletics sponsorship.

Three egregious examples of getting it wrong. And they’re all three in their different ways about identity – our identity as Londoners and as Europeans, and in the Adidas case, brand identity.

The Tory candidate for London mayor, Zac Goldsmith, was on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday. He accepts that the London building boom under Boris Johnson has pushed prices up beyond what ordinary Londoners can afford, but he still claims Johnson’s London to have been a great success story. A very partial success. Goldsmith claims to have a plan, should he become mayor, but such is the gap between average house prices and the income of the average Londoner, it won’t be enough to subsidise first-time buyers, and reductions in housing benefit have already made life much harder for low-income earners. Johnson has at the most basic level failed Londoners, and that point needs to be drilled home.

Goldsmith is a confessed eurosceptic, waiting on the result of Cameron’s renegotiations, a state of being which doesn’t impress me. Europe is a matter of identity, and part of our identity is as Europeans. The EU is a remarkable achievement, the benefits historic and tangible, but change and reform have to be ongoing – as they must be for any large organisation. The muddled scepticism and brave imaginings (of a brighter future outside) of the Tory right are a major obstacle to that process.

Adidas: it’s withdrawing its sponsorship I assume because it’s worried about damage to the company name and brand.  Did it take into account the damage it will do to athletics? It’s the athletes and not the IAAF which will be big losers. Make reform a condition of future sponsorship, yes, but don’t withdraw it altogether. The damage to the Adidas brand is to my mind now – their act of withdrawing sponsorship.

Who do we want to be? If we’re Londoners, London should be for all its citizens. We’re British – and we’re Europeans. As for Adidas, they and their brand should know be judged by what they give, and not by what they take away.