Will boosting the housing market turn it round for Brown?

Will boosting the housing market turn it round for Brown?


    Or is it one more thing that they can be accused of dithering on?

There’s lots in the papers this morning about the apparent plan to have a stamp duty “holiday” on property purchases of less than £250k in a effort to boost the depressed housing market.

The problem is that raising the possibility without taking immediate action can have precisely the opposite effect – those people on the point of buying a house might be deterred for a few days or weeks because if they do it now they’ll miss out on any change.

Also floating the idea has allowed the increasingly confident and aggressive Tories to seize some of the political kudos by demanding a decision now before the government is able to move and, yet again, attaching the term “ditherer” to Brown’s style of government. Thus another move that is being designed as part of Labour’s “come-back” could end up causing them more political damage than gain.

It also puts the focus on the increasingly strained Brown-Darling relationship. According to the Guardian: “…an an indication of tension between the Treasury and No 10, Darling is alarmed that expectations are being raised by talk, largely from Downing Street, that the government is preparing to publish an “economic rescue plan” in September. Darling is insisting there will be no formal plan.”

    This is so much like the final two years of John Major’s government from 1995-97. Confidence has collapsed, the young media-savvy Opposition Leader gets all the attention and sets the agenda, and no matter what the leadership of the governing party does it ends up being wrong.

There are all the makings of a 1997-scale landslide. The figures from every single pollster are suggesting majorities of more than a hundred. The only thing that appears to be restraining political gamblers is the worry that somebody else could take over at Number 10 and set Labour off on a different course.

Will that happen? It just might and then we are entering uncharted territory.

Mike Smithson

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