The UK’s new passport includes a bizarrely error-strewn tube map

A detail from the new UK passport. Image: Home Office.

Everyone loves a good Tube map – so much so that the government included one in the revamped UK passport designs it released yesterday.

And yet, mere moments after images were released by the Home Office, people were already taking to social media to point out some odd mistakes.

The good people at the London SE1 website noted, with bafflement, that Southwark station had not been deemed worthy of inclusion. What’s more, the government seems to be unaware of the existence of today’s London Overground, believing instead that the East London Line (as was) still terminates at New Cross Gate.

A second map, which shows the streets and railway lines of inner south London, seems a bit hit and miss as to what it shows. It includes DLR stations and mainline ones, but not Tube or Overground ones, except, for some reason, Surrey Quays. It also made another mistake which is just weird

(Queen’s Road Peckham is in the wrong place too, incidentally.)

Along with landmarks from around the country, the 34-page passport includes images of British historical figures. But it has attracted criticism because of features just two women, compared to seven men.


Her Majesty’s Passport Office said: “Not only are we constantly striving to stay one step ahead of those who seek to undermine the passport, but we have created a document that marks just some of the greatest creative achievements in the UK.” Which wasn’t quite as convincing a response as they seemed to think.

It’s possible, of course, the apparent cartographical errors were included deliberately, serving as an anti-fraud device. Surely Southwark’s omission can’t be anything to do with its perceived importance?

You can find out more about the new designs here.

 
 
 
 

A growing number of voters will never own their own home. Why is the government ignoring them?

A lettings agent window. Image: Getty.

The dream of a property-owning democracy continues to define British housing policy. From Right-to-Buy to Help-to-Buy, policies are framed around the model of the ‘first-time buyer’ and her quest for property acquisition. The goal of Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget – hailed as a major “intervention” in the “broken” housing market – is to ensure that “the next generation will have the same opportunities as their parents to own a home.”

These policies are designed for an alternative reality. Over the last two decades, the dream of the property-owning democracy has come completely undone. While government schemes used to churn out more home owners, today it moves in reverse.

Generation Rent’s new report, “Life in the Rental Sector”, suggests that more Britons are living longer in the private rental sector. We predict the number of ‘silver renters’ – pensioners in the private rental sector – will rise to one million by 2035, a three-fold increase from today.

These renters have drifted way beyond the dream of home ownership: only 11 per cent of renters over 65 expect to own a home. Our survey results show that these renters are twice as likely than renters in their 20s to prefer affordable rental tenure over homeownership.

Lowering stamp duty or providing mortgage relief completely miss the point. These are renters – life-long renters – and they want rental relief: guaranteed tenancies, protection from eviction, rent inflation regulation.

The assumption of a British ‘obsession’ with homeownership – which has informed so much housing policy over the years – stands on flimsy ground. Most of the time, it is based on a single survey question: Would you like to rent a home or own a home? It’s a preposterous question, of course, because, well, who wouldn’t like to own a home at a time when the chief economist of the Bank of England has made the case for homes as a ‘better bet’ for retirement than pensions?


Here we arrive at the real toxicity of the property-owning dream. It promotes a vicious cycle: support for first-time buyers increases demand for home ownership, fresh demand raises house prices, house price inflation turns housing into a profitable investment, and investment incentives stoke preferences for home ownership all over again.

The cycle is now, finally, breaking. Not without pain, Britons are waking up to the madness of a housing policy organised around home ownership. And they are demanding reforms that respect renting as a life-time tenure.

At the 1946 Conservative Party conference, Anthony Eden extolled the virtues of a property-owning democracy as a defence against socialist appeal. “The ownership of property is not a crime or a sin,” he said, “but a reward, a right and responsibility that must be shared as equitable as possible among all our citizens.”

The Tories are now sleeping in the bed they have made. Left out to dry, renters are beginning to turn against the Conservative vision. The election numbers tell the story of this left-ward drift of the rental sector: 29 per cent of private renters voted Labour in 2010, 39 in 2015, and 54 in June.

Philip Hammond’s budget – which, despite its radicalism, continues to ignore the welfare of this rental population – is unlikely to reverse this trend. Generation Rent is no longer simply a class in itself — it is becoming a class for itself, as well.

We appear, then, on the verge of a paradigm shift in housing policy. As the demographics of the housing market change, so must its politics. Wednesday’s budget signals that even the Conservatives – the “party of homeownership” – recognise the need for change. But it only goes halfway.

The gains for any political party willing to truly seize the day – to ditch the property-owning dream once and for all, to champion a property-renting one instead – are there for the taking. 

David Adler is a research association at the campaign group Generation Rent.

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