Tag Archives: David Cameron

Pot Snr and Kettle Jnr

David Cameron, in PMQs, avoiding the questions over the shoddy sale of the Post Office:

You are right, Mr Speaker, that there is a lot of history in this shouting, because of course in the past with all these privatisations we had the shouting of the Kinnocks, the shouting of the Prescotts and the shouting of the Straws. Over Easter, I was looking at Labour’s candidates and I saw that son of Kinnock is coming here, son of Straw wants to get here and son of Prescott wants to come here. It is the same families with the same message—it is literally the same old Labour. That is what is happening.

There is some small merit in Cameron’s quackings. It was also there in Neil Kinnock’s well-known (and ripped off) speech to the Welsh Labour Conference in May 1987:

Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick? Did they lack talent, those people who could sing and play and write and recite poetry? Those people who could make wonderful beautiful things with their hands? Those people who could dream dreams, see visions. Why didn’t they get it? Was it because they were weak? Those people who could wake work eight hours under ground and then come up and play football, weak those women who could survive eleven child-bearings? Were they weak? Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what we had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

Well, Stephen Kinnock, Will Straw, and David Prescott have inherited platforms upon which they could stand. As does Emily Benn. This being Labour Party politics, though, they still have to prove worth and merit (and hard work) to climb through the ranks.

A whiff of hypocrisy

Cameron’s canard [*] has a privileged quack.

He delivered that dynastic dig with the Cabinet Minister, Francis Maude, beside him. Francis Maude is MP for North Warwickshire 1983-1992 and retreaded MP for Horsham since 1997. Francis Maude is the son of Angus Maude, MP for Ealing South 1950-58, and retreaded MP for Stratford-on-Avon 1963-1983 (a seat he inherited from the disgraced John Profumo).

On the Tory benches we find a couple more surviving political dynasties:

  • Nicholas Soames is the son of Christopher Soames MP, grandson of Winston Churchill MP, and thereby a line all the way back to the 1st Duke of Marlborough. The marriage of Georgiana Cavendish (of the Devonshires) to Earl Spencer involves a whole mesh of entanglements, including Anthony Eden and sundry other worthies, and unworthies.
  • Nick Hurd, son of Douglas Hurd MP, grandson of Anthony Hurd MP, great-grandson of Sir Percy Hurd.

I have to admit defeat in unravelling the various marriages and connections of

  • the Pitts and Stanhopes,
  • the multitudinous Longs,
  • the intertwined Greys, Lamptons, Warings, not forgetting the Douglas-Homes.

And the man himself

Cameron’s great-grandfather was Sir William Mount, Tory MP for Newbury 1918-22, a post inherited from his father, MP for Newbury 1885-1918 and so Cameron’s great-great-grandfather. But there’s more:

On the day a young unknown called David Cameron was due to attend a job interview at Conservative Central Office, a curious phone call was received from Buckingham Palace.

‘I understand you are to see David Cameron,’ said a man with a grand voice. ‘I’ve tried everything I can to dissuade him from wasting his time on politics but I have failed.

‘I am ringing to tell you that you are about to meet a truly remarkable young man.’ …

The mystery Palace caller who smoothed Cameron’s path to Conservative Central Office has, frustratingly, yet to be unmasked.

It might be fair to assume it was Captain Sir Alastair Aird, then Comptroller and later Equerry to the Queen Mother and husband of Fiona Aird, Cameron’s godmother. That was Cameron’s belief, but the Airds vigorously deny it.

Cameron’s office suggested the caller might have been Sir Brian McGrath, a family friend who was private secretary to Prince Philip. But he, too, though named as a referee for the job, denies it firmly.

Nonetheless, thanks to the phantom string-puller, when Cameron reported for duty at Conservative Central Office on September 26, 1988, he stepped on to a fast track to political office.

There’s a touch of the MRDAs in those denials.

Countess-of-Erroll-and-Lord-HayYet Cameron has a direct link to the greatest in the land. So I feel entitled to repeat myself, yet again:

  • Prime Minister David Cameron is the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King William IV.
  • William IV was third son of George III.
  • William’s liaison with Dorothea Jordan produced eleven children, given the surname FitzClarence. Elizabeth FitzClarence (right, as Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll — the son died at the Battle of Waterloo, aged 17) married the 18th Earl of Erroll, and the subsequent descent makes David Cameron a fifth cousin of Queen Elizabeth.

[*] Malcolmian aside

Yes, canard is directly borrowed from French.

Let’s hear it from the authoritative OED:

An extravagant or absurd story circulated to impose on people’s credulity; a hoax, a false report.

Littré says Canard for a silly story comes from the old expression ‘vendre un canard à moitié’ (to half-sell a duck), in which à moitié was subsequently suppressed. It is clear that to half-sell a duck is not to sell it at all; hence the sense ‘to take in, make a fool of’. In proof of this he cites bailleur de canards, deliverer of ducks, utterer of canards, of date 1612: Cotgrave, 1611, has the fuller vendeur de canards a moitié ‘a cousener, guller, cogger; foister, lyer’. Others have referred the word to an absurd fabricated story purporting to illustrate the voracity of ducks, said to have gone the round of the newspapers, and to have been credited by many. As this account has been widely circulated, it is possible that it has contributed to render the word more familiar, and thus more used, in English.

Littré was Émile Maximilien Paul Littré, the lexicographer who produced his Dictionnaire de la langue française, after 30 years of effort, in 1873. His entry for canard is here, and includes:

Populairement, conte absurde et par lequel on veut se moquer de la crédulité des auditeurs. Cette nouvelle n’était qu’un canard.

Je suis fâché de ne vous avoir pas traité comme mon enfant ; vous le méritiez mieux que ce donneur de canard à moitié qui nous promettait tant de châteaux en Espagnela Comédie des proverbes, III, 7

How to finish here?

In honour of the canard, let’s apply the duck test:

Suppose you see a bird walking around in a farm yard. This bird has no label that says ‘duck’. But the bird certainly looks like a duck. Also, he goes to the pond and you notice that he swims like a duck. Then he opens his beak and quacks like a duck. Well, by this time you have probably reached the conclusion that the bird is a duck, whether he’s wearing a label or not.


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Filed under Daily Mail, David Cameron, History, Labour Party, prejudice, Tories.

Dodgy numbers, revisited

We just heard David Cameron get away, yet again, with the usual financial film-flam.

As I noticed previously, the claims of extra ConDem spending on flood defences were exploded by John McDermott’s Off Message blog for the FT. That is based on counting in the expenditure provided in the last year of the previous Labour administration.


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Filed under David Cameron, Financial Times

One from near home

Here is PoliticsHome feeding back from the daily Downing Street “Presidential briefing”:

Miller slammed over WW1 plans

Miller slammed over WW1 plans

Downing Street has slapped down allies of Michael Gove for criticising government plans to mark ANZAC sacrifices in the First World War. 

Sources close to the Education Secretary branded Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who has responsibility for the commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of the war, “out of her depth” and an “idiot”. 

The sources said Ms Miller had ignored the role played by Australians and New Zealanders in the fighting. 

“This is awful – the idiot Maria Miller is doing nothing to involve the rest of the Empire, who sent vast numbers of people to help us,” one source said.

However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman this morning defended the Government’s plans, and said the focus should be on the “very important commemoration” rather than the briefing against Ms Miller. 

“The idea that the plans we have in place are not going to commemorate the sacrifice that was made by the 150,000 ANZAC troops who died alongside British and other Commonwealth soldiers, and that’s not going to be a very important part, is completely wrong,” the spokesman said.

Got that? — Sources close to the Education Secretary. As close as the tongue is to the teeth, perhaps.

And now the personal bit

The Pert Young Piece (i.e #3 daughter) had a few days holiday due. She signed up to join the Antipodean ANZAC pilgrimage to Gallipoli. This was an excursion wholly applauded by her aged parents, for it gave them a prime opportunity to fly out to Istanbul for a few days, see the previously-unseen sights and sites, and meet her there.

Pert Young Piece was suitably moved by the overnight experience and dawn at ANZAC Cove — and not just because it was “dry”, not a common experience when young Australians gather. The Turkish input, too, seemed very positive: the emphasis was on shared suffering and attrition.

What got to her was the general assumption around her that this had been exclusively an Australian and New Zealander operation. It seems to be taught back home as the moment when these ex-colonies “came of age”. Not so, she was able to say: “My great-great Uncle Nev was here, and I have his DCM and Karageorgiou Star, and the mentions in dispatches, to prove it.”


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Filed under David Cameron, History, Michael Gove, politics, Tories.

The cut of a certain courtier’s beard

I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard: he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut mind it was: this is called the Retort Courteous. If I sent him word again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would send me word, he cut it to please himself: this is called the Quip Modest. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he disabled my judgment: this is called the Reply Churlish. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would answer, I spake not true: this is called the Reproof Valiant. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would say I lied: this is called the Counter-cheque Quarrelsome: and so to the Lie Circumstantial and the Lie Direct.

Touchstone, of course, in As You Like It.

Even the Lie Direct:

… you may avoid that too, with an If.

Which brings us to the Arachnes of the PR-spinning business:


Let us revisit Arachne and her deserved fate.

We read her story in Metamorphoses VI and in the Georgic IV. She was the daughter of Idmon of Colophon. She became overweeningly proud of her skills, so much that she challenged the goddess Athene to a weaving competition. Athene depicted the gods and goddesses, in majesty: Arachne went for the sensational and sordid News of the (mythological) Screws — gods pursuing their amorous prey. Athene took affront, ripped up Arachne’s work, and transformed her into the spider.

Any modern parallels exist only in the imagination.

Which might bring us to …


… PR guru Matthew Freud’s 50th birthday on Saturday: he and his wife, Elisabeth Murdoch, hosted a fairly lavish party. But would Westminster’s finest attend?

Guests were struck to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor both in attendance, evidently quite happy to rejoin the social set that they have both kept clear of in recent years. Tony and Cherie Blair were also tripping the light fantastic. It was, after all, a Noah’s Ark theme and they came in twos: PM and Osborne, Blairs, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. Perhaps the Chancellor is so confident that his pre-Budget report will be a festival of good news that he feels he can start partying again.

Thus The Spectator gossip column.

Except that wasn’t the first draft of this little piece of history. The Daily Telegraph gossip, Mandrake, had a variant reading. Key members of the Chipping Norton set were not among the festive throng at Burford Priory:

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, who famously attended Freud’s last big bash in 2011, days before the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandal broke, was nowhere to be seen …

David Cameron, too, kept his distance from the group and was absent from the celebrations. Since the phone hacking scandal erupted the Prime Minister has gone to great lengths to diassociate himself from Brooks. Freud confirms to me that neither were present.

Note, carefully, that the “confirmation” allegedly came to the Torygraph from Freud himself. “Steerpike”, that Speccie observer of the passing social scene, was keen to put his record straight:

Elizabeth Murdoch’s husband Matthew Freud has ‘clarified’ that Cameron and Osborne were actually at his birthday party on Saturday, as described by Mr Steerpike yesterday. Initially, Mr Freud said that the PM had not attended.

Ditto Tim Walker at the Telegraph, just today:

When I asked Matthew Freud, Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, if David Cameron had attended his 50th birthday party in Oxfordshire over the weekend, the PR man answered: “no…. please let me know if you would like a more explicit clarification.”

“Clarification” came, however, 24 hours later, when, after I posed the question again, one of Freud’s associates got in touch to “clarify” that the PM, had, in fact, been there. He said that George Osborne was also a guest.

Walker’s tone may imply some asperity. He goes out of his way to dig a bit more dirt:

Among public relations professionals, there often appears to have been a reticence about talking about Murdoch-related matters: one thinks of the belated statement about the horse that Cameron rode that was lent to Miss Brooks by the police, and the Christmas party he attended at her home in 2010, along with James Murdoch, as News Corp was trying to take over BSkyB.

“Reticence” may be the Retort Courteous, but Freud went for the Lie Direct. Back to the punch-lines of As You Like It, Act V, scene 4:

Jaques: Is not this a rare fellow, my lord? he’s as good at any thing and yet a fool.

Duke Senior: He uses his folly like a stalking-horse and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit.

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Filed under Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Murdoch, Shakespeare, sleaze., The Spectator, Tories.

I’m sari I was sarong

Yes: the old follow-up to “Is that a sari you’re wearing? Or a sarong?”

First there was Isabel Hardman’s view of Theresa May’s defence, dealing with Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed’s breach of his TPIM. Unsurprisingly, considering her readership’s complexion, she found May did quite well.

For some reason fathomable only to the more-frothing commenters at The Speccie, the topic instantly diverted:

— Even today we had Teresa may defending the wearing of the Burkha! Cameron attending a celebration of Hindu! and looking forward to 80million Turks joining the corrupt organisation costing us currently £60billion per year and Tory MEP’s voting in Brussels to increase the budget to cover an overspend by the EU last year!

— As for the prime ministers wife wearing a sari then you need to go into analyis if that upsets you. Teresa May wore one at an indian woman of the year event. Cheri Blair has worn one (alongside Liz Hurley) Dutchess of York et al. I prefer to see Sam Cameron in a sari than David Bekham in his tattoos.

Sic. And sick.

So shall we remind such of the youthful Dave Cameron, himself? —


But it was a true Blues Brothers tee-shirt.


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Filed under David Cameron, Isabel Hardman, The Spectator

Rejoice! TINA’s back!

It jumps out of the screen (or, if you can find a full text, the page):

If there was another way I would take it. But there is no alternative.

Yes: David Cameron has tripped off to Keighley and made a speech, saying … well, absolutely nothing. Except that he is the current possessor of Ma Thatcher’s handbag, and is prepared to filch the odd trifle therefrom.


That’s from 1980, when the Tory government was already heading further and further into the slough of despond.

Consider this, from Anthony Wells’s ukpollingreport:


Thatcher’s key economic speech of 1o October 1980 was her  Conference “not for turning” address to the Tory faithful:

If our people feel that they are part of a great nation and they are prepared to will the means to keep it great, a great nation we shall be, and shall remain. So, what can stop us from achieving this? What then stands in our way? The prospect of another winter of discontent? I suppose it might.

But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learnt from experience, that we are coming, slowly, painfully, to an autumn of understanding. And I hope that it will be followed by a winter of common sense. If it is not, we shall not be—diverted from our course.

To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

“It’s déjà vu all over again”

And Yogi Berra is still with us (now in his later 80s).

The problem common to Thatcher in 1980, and Cameron in 2013 is: who is their audience?

It is, in short, their own party — and in both cases the speeches are defence mechanisms, self-defences against an increasingly unhappy and fractious parliamentary party. We need to recall that in 1980 Thatcher was not, by any means, the autocratic Tory leader that Galtieri, his Argie military cronies, and near on a thousand unnecessary corpses made her.

Cameron’s electoral problem

It isn’t just the Eastleigh business. The 1979 General Election meant that Thatcher’s Tory benches included 22 Scottish MPs (with 31.4% of Scottish votes) — Cameron has just the one (and 16.7% of the votes). In 1979 Northern Ireland returned five (of the ten in total) MPs as Ulster Unionists (with 36.6% of the poll) — on all matters economic, the UU MPs voted with the Tory Whip: today there is not a single Ulster Unionist MP remaining, despite Cameron’s explicit involvement and rebranding of UCUNF.

Let’s continue.

In September 2012 The Economist had a definitive description of:

The great divide
Economically, socially and politically, the north is becoming another country

The piece went still further back, and deeper into the socio-economics of English history:

The north remains poorer than the south, with sharply lower employment rates and average incomes. In 1965 men in the north were 16% more likely to die under the age of 75 than men in the south. By 2008 they were 20% more likely to, according to a study published last year in the British Medical Journal. This is not just because poor people die young: rich northerners apparently live shorter lives than their southern peers…

Whereas government spending is spread fairly evenly across the country — nurses and teachers are needed roughly in proportion to the population — private-sector growth has been heavily concentrated, mostly in and around London. Between 1997 and 2010 gross value-added, a measure of output, grew by 61% in the three northern regions. In London and the South East, it shot up by 92%. According to a study by the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester, the state accounted, directly and indirectly, for 64% of the jobs created in the north between 1998 and 2007, against just 38% in the south.

It also considers the electoral impact:

The Conservative Party is retreating in the north, too. Its problem is not just that northern seats tend to be poorer, and thus more likely to vote Labour. Broad mistrust of the Tories, cemented during the 1980s recession, means middle-class voters in the north are actually more likely to vote Labour than are working-class voters in the south. Policy Exchange, a think-tank, points out that Conservatives held two-fifths of northern seats in 1951. They now hold less than a third, mostly in rural areas. In the cities, and in former-coal mining areas, the party is all but invisible. In July the Sheffield Conservative Party was forced to relocate to nearby Rotherham, as it is so short of cash…

And, of course, so much of what ConDem austerity economics has done disproportionately impacts upon the North and the devolved regions: the attacks on public employment, the squeeze on municipal budgets, replacing poor employment with even poorer-paid part-time work, lower productivity, rack-renting public housing, energy costs, transport costs … What, will the line stretch out to th’ crack of doom?

Cameron’s revolting women

This is the most jaw-dropping of the lot: women have turned against the Tories. In every post-War election until 2005 women voters preferred the Tories: it has been a declining gap (it was +12 in 1974), but in the last two general Elections, it has reversed. When one digs down into the most recent YouGov/Sunday Times poll, we find the gender gap is now a chasm:


Note that: a 12 point gender deficit for the Tories.

A curious beast

Peter Hoskin on ConHome finds only luke-warm words for Cameron’s speech (and it was an extended one) today, at Keighley:

David Cameron’s speech on the economy today is a curious beast. Here we have the Prime Minister pronouncing on growth, competition, debt and all that – but it has a thin flavour to it, as though it’s just an appetiser for the Budget in a couple of weeks. There are no new policy announcements, nor anything we haven’t really heard before. Yet perhaps that is the point: Mr Cameron emphasises, à la Lady Thatcher, that “there is no alternative” to the Coalition’s current plan. He speaks of consistency and continuity. It reads like a message telling everyone – from the restless Tory backbenches to Ed Balls and Vince Cable – not to expect a change in course.

That addresses the “what” of the speech (or, perhaps the “what-not?”), but not the more telling “where” (Keighley!)  and “why?” (because he’s dans le merde!). On the other hand, that’s precisely what Nick Robinson has caught on (and saying far more succinctly and elegantly than Malcolm managed here):

Perhaps most revealing, though, is that he feels the need to make this speech at all and who it is aimed at. It is a restatement of the government’s central economic purpose aimed at:

  • his own party, which is why he is borrowing Margaret Thatcher’s language
  • the North of England
  • and women

Look at this paragraph to see what I mean :

“I know things are tough right now. Families are struggling with the bills at the end of the month. Some are just a pay-cheque away from going into the red. Parents are worried about what the future holds for their children. Whole towns are wondering where their economic future lies. And I know that is especially true for people here in Yorkshire and in many parts of the north of our country who didn’t benefit properly from the so-called boom years and worry they won’t do so again. But I’m here to say that’s not going to happen. Because we have a plan to get through these difficulties – and to get through them together.”

A man! A plan! A canal! Panama!

As good a palindrome as you’ll get in these parts to remind us just how much of British politicking involves going round in circles and disappeared up one’s own … canal.

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Filed under ConHome, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, Gender, History, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, polls, Scotland, ukpollingreport, Yorkshire

“Welfare tax”?

Go to the BBC video of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Enjoy Miliband winding up Cameron on the Bedroom Tax.

Remember: in Cameron’s world, it’s not a “tax”, it’s a “benefit”. That was his effort, responding to Miliband’s first question. What is the “benefit” of losing £25 a week? That was enough to shock Malcolm — and got to Steve Bell as well:

Steve Bell 7.2.2013

Indeed the crude brutishness of Cameron’s manner made Malcolm miscue. So back to the BBC video.

The crucial moment comes about 7 minutes and 15 seconds in. Cameron is waxing loud and lyrical about Miliband’s policy deficiencies (though why Labour needs to be lumbered with detailed policy commitments this far out from a fixed election date is another matter).

Malcolm believed he heard Cameron say:

What this Government is doing is building more houses and controlling welfare bills. But, frankly, the question is one he has to answer, too. If he opposes the welfare tax, if he opposes restrictions on increased welfare, if he opposes reform of disability benefit, if he opposes each and every welfare change we make, how on earth is he going to get control of public spending.

What the Hansard reporter heard (or was persuaded was said) is subtly different:

The Prime Minister: What this Government are doing is building more houses and controlling welfare bills. Frankly, the question is one that the right hon. Gentleman has to answer, too. If he opposes the welfare cap, if he opposes restrictions on increased welfare, if he opposes reform of disability benefits and if he opposes each and every welfare change we make, how on earth is he going to get control of public spending?

Fair enough: on about the third hearing, Malcolm concedes Hansard is probably right, and Malcolm’s hearing is adrift. Still, the message lingers.

What is fiendishly wrong here is that people in social housing are being punished for disability, or for wanting to stay in long-established homes. They are also being caned because:

  • wages are criminally low, and are being driven even lower by deliberate government policies;
  • rents in the private sector are too high, and still rising.

Let’s take those in turn, and refer to two items in this current issue of Private Eye:

1. Giz a job

SURF, Scotland’s independent regeneration group, which aims to improve health and wellbeing in deprived areas, received 400 applications in response to an advert for a part-time admin job. Chief Executive Andy Milne also received an email from the folk at Liga UK, who were keen to let him know that they were a “government-funded training provider who help young people gety into the workplace”.

Liga helpfully suggested that Milne consider converting the paid job into an “apprenticeship” placement. After all, it suggested, “If you do take on an apprentice for this role, you only need to pay them £100-£270 per week.” Liga UK also offered a further inducement of the £1,500 placement fee from the government.

What Ligaq failed to mention was that if SURF agreed to shove the poor recruit out of the promised job, Liga could also claim an apprenticeship placement “success” and pick up its own fee. Milne asked Liga why on earth the government would want it to displace a real job with an apprenticeship. He is still waiting for an answer.

By no coincidence, just a week ago Channel 4’s FactCheck Blog ran the rule over:

… the latest stats on apprenticeships in England today, which show that more than half a million people began a placement in 2011/12.

That is costing the government (i.e. the tax-payer) around £1.4 billion — yes, billion — in 2011-12. Moreover, nearly a fifth of these placements run for six months or less. Such turn-over must be money in the bank for the likes of Liga. Moreover, as FactCheck adds:

… a few months spent learning how to stack shelves and a three-and-a-half year stint at Rolls-Royce both count as the same.

2. Gimme Shelter 

Welfare reforms brought in by the coalition were already bringing down rents, said a confident David Cameron in January last year. “What we have seen so far, as housing benefit has been reformed and reduced, is that rent levels have come down, so we have stopped ripping off the taxpayer.”

But have they come down? It seemed unlikely at the time, although it reflected a widespread belief in government that the local housing allowance (the form of housing benefit paid to private renters) was somehow causing rent inflation.

A year on, and with more housing benefit cuts due in April, rents are stubbornly refusing to go anywhere but up. A report from Shelter based on the government’s Valuation Office Agency figures says rents have risen 2.8 percent in the past year. That’s faster than the 1.7 percent rise in house prices and comes at a time when wages are at a standstill.

Several areas saw double-digit rises, including an eye-watering 10.8 percent in one local authority with which Cameron should be fa,iliad: West Oxfordshire, home to his Witney constituency.

This Shelter survey, The Rent Trap, is on-line. It covers only English local authority areas (as, indeed, does the Tory party’s world-view).

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Filed under Comment is Free, Conservative family values, David Cameron, economy, Ed Miliband, House-prices, Private Eye, Scotland, social class, Steve Bell, Tories.