Even many natural Conservatives have a soft spot for Oona King, the former MP for Bethnal Green & Bow who stands a good chance of being Labour’s official candidate for Mayor of London. It is hard not to regard her as preferable to her rival for the candidacy, Ken Livingstone. She is admired for her generally cheerful and approachable style and for the dignity with which she conducted herself during the 2005 general election campaign when she was subjected to vicious and anti-Semitic abuse from opponents, some of whom thought it appropriate to throw eggs at her while she was attending a commemorative service for victims of the Blitz.
But what are we to make of her most eye-catching policy, should she actually become Mayor? In an extraordinary proposal reported in the London Evening Standard, she is advocating the creation of a ‘Mayor’s Mortgage Scheme.’ Through it, the Greater London Council would become a guarantor for low paid workers so that they can be given credit no financial institution would otherwise lend them to buy homes that are far beyond their means.
Oona, oh, Oona! Where on Earth have you been these last three years? We are in a recession because (particularly) British and American banks almost (and in some cases did) go bust. This happened because they lent too much money to those who could not pay them back … in particular, those on low incomes who bought property with mortgages they could not afford.
What Oona King is proposing for London is an exact repetition of the idiotic economics that caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States. It took the banks to the verge of destruction and ensured the ‘credit crunch’ having first created a property bubble that burst leaving millions of low paid families with debts they cannot repay and properties they cannot sell.
Similarly, in supposedly helping low-paid Londoners to get a leg up on the property ladder, her ‘Mayor’s Mortgage Scheme’ will saddle them with crushing debt. Contrary to what this new version of the marriage of socialism to materialism imagines, owning property in one of the world’s most expensive cities is not a human right. It is surely sensible to dissuade those who cannot afford it from such folly. Sadly, many may be enticed by this irresponsible politician’s dangerous but superficially enticing offer.
Boris Johnson has been criticised for failing to come up with ‘big ideas’ for London. But if Oona King’s attempt at an attention grabbing project is any guide, let us be thankful for a mayor who confines himself to operating a rent-a-bicycle scheme.