The Lady in Malcolm’s Life coughed and spluttered her way to and from a City appointment. She brought back the Evening Boris Standard.
Page 2 has a post-Huhne pop-survey (dignified by Ipsos-MORI) on page 2. This tells us:
- 41% of interviewees “generally trust” (and 57% distrust) business leaders to tell the truth;
- which is more than 24% who trust (and 70% who distrust) estate agents;
- and more than the 23% who trust (and 70% who distrust) MPs in general.
Since the bottom of the reliability pile involves “Politicians generally” (18% trusted, 77% distrusted) it would need a keen logician to untangle in what ways the general public differentiate them from their sub-set “MPs in general”.
Remember and despair: one in four of our fellow citizens trusts the snake-oiled property shark.
At a single bound …
… we leap to page 59 for the letters, and the main focus is the “Mansion Tax”. As we might expect from the Evening Boris Standard, this is the usual balanced viewpoints:
- a no-no from “Trevor Abrahmsohn, Glentree Estates”;
- a no-no-no from “M Truman, Taxation Magazine”; and
- a severe snipe from “Andrew Pearmain, author, The Politics of New Labour“.
We shall not, on this occasion, pause to marvel that a magazine (a glossy?) survives on the topic of licensed mulcting alone, nor a self-proclaimed “author” who needs his magnum opus soldered to his moniker. Well, perhaps for just a moment of mockery.
Let us instead hang on the words of Mr Abrahmsohn. Here is one with considerable North London street-cred (though it’s more “avenues” and “gardens” in Abrahmsohn’s refined world):
Meet the man who holds the keys to Billionaires’ Row
He has sold the world’s most expensive house and rubbed shoulders with the political elite – but life was not always so glamorous for the keeper of keys to Billionaires’ Row.
His office on the edge of Hampstead Garden Suburb, adorned with letters from prime ministers and press cuttings from national newspapers, is a far cry from the shabby hotel room in Golders Green where Trevor Abrahmsohn forged his reputation as estate agent to the globe’s glitterati.
Armed with nothing but a temperamental phone line and a photocopier, the 58-year-old went on to enjoy 35 years selling “trophy mansions” on The Bishops Avenue to Saudi princes, Chinese businessman and Russian oligarchs.
That’s a recent puff-piece from the Ham & High.
And, finally, we have Mr Abrahmsohn’s missive to the Evening Boris Standard:
Mansion tax will never happen
Labour’s announcement of a mansion tax and reinstatement of the 10p tax band yesterday is headline-grabbing before the Eastleigh by-election. What are we to make of the two Eds’ integrity, given they were thew joint architects of Labour policy at the time Gordon Brown abolished the 10p band?
If Miliband had any sense, there is no way he will actually implement a mansion tax that would alienate an important element of middle-class Labour support. In the London property market, the likely £2 million threshold is hardly a fortune: perhaps buying a two-bedroom flat in a leafy, but not super-prime, inner London area, and there are plenty of properties in this bracket that were bought for relatively little years ago.
A mansion tax would have a profound effect on the dynamics of the market: a lot of people would sell up and court cases would be certain as others try to revalue their property. Foreign investors have already been hit by the Coalition’s clumsy levy of 15 per cent stamp duty in the last Budget, and a mansion tax would only magnify their problems; why are we trying so hard to repel them? A far more plausible, consumer-friendly approach is to bring in a range of higher council tax bands above Band G.
Trevor Abrahmsohn, Glentree Estates.
Kettling the pot
Spot the mutually-conflicting assumptions and statements there. Malcolm will tick just three.
For what it’s worth, the average price of a two-bed flat in NW11 (Mr Abrahmsohn’s home patch of Golders Green) is around £400,000. Only in five tight super-prime, inner London areas — W1 (Piccadilly), W8 (Kensington), SW3 (Chelsea), SW7 (South Ken) and the Brompton Road (SW10) — would one readily hit on a £1 million plus two-bed pad. Those are not areas of solid middle-class Labour support.
Moreover, doesn’t any decent heart bleed for the misfortunes of those foreign investors who plump Mr Abrahmsohn’s portfolio? Malcolm regularly passes down the eternal building-site that is The Bishop’s Avenue (a.k.a. “Billionaires’ Row”). Its very existence involves tearing down perfectly-good (and hardly-offensive) granges, and erecting, in their place, over-sized but tawdry glass sheds — which, in turn, are gone in half-a-decade or so for something even more glitzy and ghastly.
There is a sound — nay, urgent — argument to be made for reforming the Council Tax. It was designed by Michael Heseltine as a regressive tax. It has become far more oppressive with subsequent postponements of revaluation — most recently, and seemingly twice, with malice aforethought, by Eric Pickles. What Abrahmsohn also elides is the distinction between national and local taxation: Council Tax is just that, local.
We should be looking at how we tax property. Since it is even more static than parked cars (which we tax and fine), it’s not rocket science to evaluate its worth and slap a duty on it. The over-inflated property market in London and the more-bourgeois areas of the South-East is ripe for plucking. Only the most self-interested Tory fails to recognise that. Doing so (and improving transport links) could and should encourage “trickle-down”, first to those crumbling areas adjacent to London, then further afield.
Once we’ve agreed the need, it’s only method that matters. Miliband and Balls have taken aboard the ‘mansion tax’, with due acknowledgements to the likes of Vince Cable. Why not go a step further, and snuffle around site-value/land-value taxation? Which was amply dealt with recently by George Monbiot in The Guardian and taken further by Alex Hern in the New Statesman.
If nothing else, it’s guaranteed to raise the Abrahmsohn blood-pressure.