The real losers of this election were landlords, apparently

Oh, yay. Image: Getty.

I’m trying to get out of the habit of being publicly mean about terrible press releases. It’s cheap, it’s self-indulgent, and it doesn’t require either intellectual effort or journalistic skill to point out that a stupid thing someone has said is stupid.

On the other hand, I’ve had three hours sleep, I can barely remember how verbs work, and this is a really terrible press release, so screw it.

Here’s the topline: the landlord lobby is very disappointed in Theresa May’s Conservative party. In fact, if the Tories don’t change their ways, then, well, the landlords will, well, they’ll do something, and then they’ll be sorry.

James Davis, CEO and founder of online lettings agency, Upad.co.uk, comments on the shock General Election result:

“The landlord bashing is only likely to continue with Theresa May forming a deal with the DUP to allow her to continue leading the country. There were no new pledges set out to help struggling landlords in her manifesto.”

Okay, let me stop you right there. The Tory party didn’t create either the buy to let bubble or the housing crisis it’s a part of (thanks, Tony Blair). But for the last seven years, they’ve presided over the expansion of both.

Despite some half-hearted attempts to revoke the rentiers’ privileges towards the end of George Osborne’s time as chancellor, this government has overseen a massive unearned boom in house prices. Landlords have been able to make large quantities of money on the basis of very little effort. Renters, on the other hand, have had to pay over ever larger chunks of their flatlining incomes in exchange for neither assets nor securities.

So what exactly are the landlords whining about? What do they want? A medal?

It gets worse.

“The Tories have proven that they can’t be trusted by landlords; as they continue to use them as a political football to kick around. I certainly wouldn’t let one of my properties out to a Tory as you can’t trust them!”

That exclamation mark is genuinely included in the quote, people.

Anyway:

1. I’m not quite clear on the legalities of asking someone’s political affiliation before renting a room to them, but it feels like fairly dodgy ground to me.

2. You do know that the Tories making these decisions aren’t renting, right?

 “Whilst the Conservatives have recognised that the 8 million tenants in the UK are worth supporting politically...”

Here is the full extent of the Tory manifesto’s promises to renters:

“We will also improve protections for those who rent, including by looking at how we increase security for good tenants and encouraging landlords to offer longer tenancies as standard.”

I mean they’re basically manning the barricades, aren’t they? Arm yourself, Francine, the sans-culottes are coming.

“... what they don’t seem to realise is that the changes they want to bring about for landlords, will eventually through the test of time affect tenants far more through higher rents.”

Well, no, I’m not buying this. Rents are set by the interaction between the supply of housing, the demand for that housing, and tenants’ abilities to pay. Landlords’ costs don’t come into it. The idea that they do implicitly assumes that the market would bear higher rents, but landlords don’t charge them because [reasons]. Surely more likely is that landlord-ing would become slightly less profitable, which, while annoying if you’re a landlord, is not likely to bother anyone else.

The weirdest thing about this press release is... What is James Davis, CEO and founder of online lettings agency Upad.co.uk, threatening exactly? Is he saying landlords are going to vote en masse for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party? Because he doesn’t say this explicitly, but if that’s not what he’s saying, this isn’t much of a threat is it?

I don’t think the Tory manifesto did go in for landlord bashing, if I’m honest. But if it had, I don’t think it would have been much of a problem. Landlords are among the safest groups in Britain to bash: nobody really likes them, they add very little to the economy, and they can’t take their business offshore. If there’s one group you absolutely can get away with being mean about, it’s landlords.


So we should do more of it, that’s what I’m saying.

Where was I going with this? I’ve had three hours sleep. Did I mention that?

Nope, can’t think of an ending. Please go read my thoughts on the election over on the New Statesman instead.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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London Overground is experimenting with telling passengers which bits of the next train is busiest

There must be a better way than this: Tokyo during a 1972 rail strike. Image: Getty.

One of the most fun things to do, for those who enjoy claustrophobia and other people’s body odour, is to attempt to use a mass transit system at rush hour.

Travelling on the Central line at 6pm, for example, gives you all sorts of exciting opportunities to share a single square inch of floor space with a fellow passenger, all the while becoming intimately familiar with any personal hygiene problems they may happen to have. On some, particularly lovely days you might find you don’t even get to do this for ages, but first have to spend some exciting time enjoying it as a spectator sport, before actually being able to pack yourself into one unoccupied cranny of a train.

But fear not! Transport for London has come up with a plan: telling passengers which bits of the train have the most space on them.

Here’s the science part. Many trains include automatic train weighing systems, which do exactly what the name suggests: monitoring the downward force on any individual wheel axis in real time. The data thus gathered is used mostly to optimise the braking.

But it also serves as a good proxy for how crowded a particular carriage is. All TfL are doing here is translating that into real time information visible to passengers. It’s using the standard, traffic light colour system: green means go, yellow means “hmm, maybe not”, red means “oh dear god, no, no, no”. 

All this will, hopefully, encourage some to move down the platform to where the train is less crowded, spreading the load and reducing the number of passengers who find themselves becoming overly familiar with a total stranger’s armpit.

The system is not unique, even in London: trains on the Thameslink route, a heavy-rail line which runs north/south across town (past CityMetric towers!) has a similar system visible to passengers on board. And so far it’s only a trial, at a single station, Shoreditch High Street.

But you can, if you’re so minded, watch the information update every few seconds or so here.

Can’t see why you would, but I can’t see why I would either, and that hasn’t stopped me spending much of the day watching it, so, knock yourselves out.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.