It was a truly remarkable performance – an end-of-conference communications effort for the ages. At last, the animating spirit of today’s Conservative Party was distilled to its essence and recorded for a grateful nation.
Unfortunately, the author of this feat was not Liz Truss, although she did manage to navigate her own historically short leader’s speech without lapsing into a coughing fit or the stage falling over. No, the honour fell to a random former councillor from Somerset, Felicity Baker – and the word she had to bring was the Boomer creed.
Just watch her interview with Times Radio, if you haven’t already. To summarise: interest rates going up is nice because it rewards people, like her, with lots of savings; young people aspiring towards homeownership are ‘entitled’ and need to lower their expectations; she can’t fathom why the Tories aren’t popular.
As the Prime Minister stood on the conference stage denouncing the laundry list of villains who make up the ‘anti-growth coalition’, there was a paid-up member right there in Birmingham’s ICC – all disguise cast off, the modern age not quite in arms, but secure in its electoral dominance, talking happily about what a boon high interest rates will be for those who have already paid off their mortgages.
(That high interest rates could precipitate an actual crash, with the distressed sellers being mainly those who’ve bought their homes under the Conservatives, was not mentioned. Nor was the fact that a crash caused by expensive credit will continue to lock first-time buyers out.)
We could go on at length at how short-sighted such attitudes are. In the long run, the Boomers really do need this country in general, and the next generation in particular, to be richer than they are on track to be right now – at least if they want an economy strong enough to honour the various entitlements for which they ‘paid in all their lives’. But that’s been done.
What’s really remarkable, though, is the sheer shamelessness of it. Ms Baker has sufficient residual self-awareness to acknowledge that her position is ‘selfish’. But unless she’s a sociopath, she clearly doesn’t grasp quite how selfish it truly is.
It’s clear why. The interview has all the usual exculpatory Boomer memes. When she was young, you know, people faced interest rates much higher than they were today. They were expected to save for things, unlike today’s instant-gratification generation.
CapX readers probably don’t need to be told that this argument is nonsense on stilts. Whilst headline interest rates have been much higher historically than now, those repayments were being made on loans which had a much, much lower value-to-income ratio. That the Boomers could actually afford to keep their homes with interest rates at double figures, however painful, testifies to this.
(Nor should we forget that homeowners enjoyed tax relief on mortgage interest payments until Gordon Brown abolished it in 2000; until 1988 couples could even pool their allowances. So they weren’t actually paying the headline rate.)
When the interviewer points some of this out, Baker pivots seamlessly to the idea that maybe we need to give up on the idea of widespread homeownership. Why can’t we be more like Germany, or ‘Italy in particular’, for a better way forward?
Once again, it’s nonsense. Even in Germany homeownership levels are north of 50%; in Italy, it’s around 72%.
Even amongst her own generation, there’s resentment that people like her, who’ve saved, are having to shell out for things such as their parents’ care whilst those who haven’t saved have the bill picked up by the State – precisely the sort of resentment that drives governments to heap extra taxes on working-age people rather than ask her to draw down on her adventitious asset wealth.
The gulf in understanding between our Boomer and the actual economic situation facing Millennials is pretty much total. When you’re saying that much of the quiet part out loud, it’s clear you don’t actually think there’s any need to keep your voice down.
Until that changes, if ever, this generation of well-meaning vampires are going to keep bleeding Britain dry. And the Conservative Party, trapped in Renfield-like dependence on their patronage, will continue to destroy the foundations of its future voter coalition keeping them fed.
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