During Denmark's election, its cities were festooned with terrifying posters

Election fever hits Copenhagen, earlier this month. Image: AFP/Getty.

Twelve days ago, the Danish left narrowly lost in a general election.

Shortly before election day, the polls showed that the centre left parties were trailing by less than 2 per cent. Unlike the polls released before Britain’s recent election, this reflected the final result fairly accurately.Danish pollsters, apparently, are nothing like their UK counterparts.

The far right Danish People Party almost doubled their representation to become the 2nd largest party. The Danish far right differs from Britain’s, too, in that when they win votes, they get seats, too.

There’s another way in which the election highlighted the difference between British and Danish politics: the ubiquitous campaign advertising.

Consider this picture of outgoing prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, which shows that the politicians’ desire to be seen on construction sites – pretty much the last places their expertise would actually be useful – was not just a British fetish. 

Image: Anders Hemmingsen/Instagram.
 

Thorning-Schmidt's popularity had grown in the last 6 months after a difficult 1st term. Her Social Democracy party was the biggest party, but nonetheless lost due to the number of centre right votes.

The person who bent this poster summed up the dichotomy quite prophetically. 

Image: Anders Hemmingsen/Instagram.

This is the Danish rapper Kesi. He has no declared political ambitions, he just wants you to know, he’s “good at spending money".

 

Image: Anders Hemmingsen/Instagram.

Kesi was not the only celebrity to, knowingly or unknowingly, declare their political ambitions on posters. Danish footballer Niklas Bendtner, known for his huge ego and inversely proportional talent, also threw his hat into the ring.

 

Image: Anders Hemmingsen/Instagram.

And then there's the independent candidate, John Erik Wagner who, despite top quality poster action, didn’t win a seat.

 

For some reason.

 


In Denmark, voters are automatically registered to vote. It clearly works: the turnout in the recent elections stood at 86 per cent, 20 per cent more than in the UK a month earlier. 

 
 
 
 

The best way to make housing more affordable? Raise interest rates

Lol, no. Image: Getty.

Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in September 2017, the UK prime minister, Theresa May, gave a stark assessment of the UK housing market which made for depressing listening for many young people: “For many the chance of getting onto the housing ladder has become a distant dream”, she said.

Now a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) provides further, clear evidence of this. The study finds that home ownership among 25 to 34-year-olds has declined sharply over the past 20 years. Home ownership rates have declined from 43 per cent at age 27 for someone born in the late 1970s, to just 25 per cent for someone aged 27 who was born in the late 1980s.

The most significant decline has been for middle-income young people, whose rate of home ownership has fallen from 65 per cent in 1995-6 to 27 per cent now – most significantly hitting aspirant buyers in London and the South-East.

Causes and consequences

The IFS study lays the blame for all this on the growing gap between house prices and incomes. Adjusting for inflation, house prices have risen 150 per cent in the 20 years to 2015-16, while real incomes for 25 to 34-year-olds have grown by 22 per cent (and almost all of that growth happened before the 2008 crash).

A bleak picture. Image: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But, as the report acknowledges, the problem goes much deeper than this. Home ownership rates differ by region. Although there has been a decline in home ownership rates for young people across all areas of Great Britain, the decline is less significant in the North East and Cumbria as well as in Scotland and the South West. The biggest decline in ownership has been in the South-East, the North-West (excluding Cumbria) and London.

So a person aged 25 to 34 is more than twice as likely to own their own home in Cumbria, as their counterpart in London. Worse, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to own their own homes – even after controlling for differences in education and earnings. Home ownership continues to reflect a deeper inequality of opportunity in our society.


More houses needed

Part of the problem is that both Labour and Conservative governments have seen housing as a single, stand-alone market and have focused their attention on what is happening to prices in London. But housing is a number of different markets, which have regional variations and different interactions between the owner-occupier, private rented and social rented sectors.

Regional variations in house prices for similar sized properties reflect the imbalances of the economy: it is heavily reliant on financial services, which are concentrated in London, while the public sector makes up a significant share of many local economies – particularly in the North. Migration from across the UK to overcrowded and expensive areas – such as London and the South-East – have put property prices in those areas even further out of reach for would-be buyers.

To make matters worse, both Labour and Conservative governments have routinely failed to build enough houses. While the current government’s aim to build 300,000 new properties a year by 2020 is welcome, it is simply not enough to meet the backlog in demand – let alone address the fundamental affordability problem.

Where homes are being built, they’re often the wrong types of homes, in the wrong places. Family homes are being built, despite there being some 4m under-occupied such properties across the country.

Not that long ago, government was reducing the housing stock in many parts of the North, through the disastrous Housing Market Renewal programme. Houses are currently being sold in smaller cities such as Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent for just £1. And none of the government’s actions suggest that ministers understand these issues, or are prepared to address them.

House price inflation – and the awful affect it is having on home ownership rates for young people – is part of a wider problem of the global asset bubble. This bubble has seen huge increases in the price of assets – stocks, housing, bonds – in high income countries such as the UK. Successive governments have helped to fuel this through quantitative easing, ultra-cheap money and successive raids on pension funds.

The ConversationWhat’s needed to address this asset bubble is a substantive increase in interest rates. But while this may slow the growth in house prices, the sad truth is it will do nothing to make housing more affordable for most young people.

Chris O'Leary, Deputy Director, Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.