Naming a storm after St Jude, the patron saint of desperate or even lost causes, felt like overegging it. Weekending in Swanage on the south coast, where the storm passed through relatively unnoticed overnight, I wondered what would happen if we had to face real tropical weather conditions.
However it was the prospect of a very wet Sunday that led me to buy the Observer. Like a lot of Labour supporters I abandoned spending money on the Guardian group after their appalling behaviour during the 2010 General Election. It is true to say that their papers remain the best of an extremely bad bunch, my resolve has reduced with the passage of time, and sometimes it’s nice to hold a real newspaper rather than look at a screen.
Anyway, back to the Observer. It had a lot about energy and a lot about property. One main feature, a strange concoction of mainly anecdotal information on ‘four generation families’, had a large picture of the Windsors, one Queen and 3 future Kings supposedly. My interest was stirred by the fact that, in the photograph, taken indoors, the Queen was not only wearing an outdoor coat but also gloves. I thought that was taking David Cameron’s jumper advice to the extreme.
There was an altogether more serious piece by Daniel Boffey on house prices in the north-east, an important antidote to the rash of recent stories about London. In the north east property prices are continuing to drop, which has broadly been happening since 2007. One contributor said there were property pin-pricks rather than hotspots but there was little evidence to make anyone believe things were going to change anytime soon.
The gap between London property and the rest is clear from this excellent chart by Neal Hudson – @resi_analyst on Twitter. The London prime market explosion is having severe ripple effects, but they don’t stretch as far as the Tees or the Tyne. The super-prime market remains a law unto itself, with an estimated 460 transactions over £5 million and 160 transactions over £10 million in the last year, increases of 20% and 32% on the previous year, according to Savills.
It’s not so much a ripple as a tsunami of price rises spreading out from the centre: the strongest price growth is now in the rest of inner London, in Hackney, Camden, Wandsworth and Lambeth. As the global super-rich squeeze the merely rich out of central London, so the merely rich squeeze out the quite well-off, and so on down the chain.
It is complete madness and the result of the interplay of several long-term factors: the failure of regional policy to promote balanced growth across the country, the general failure of housing supply, the lack of protection afforded to low cost housing in inner London, of which there used to be a lot, and the lack of appreciation that London’s success as a ‘global city’ might just have a downside.
So when he has dealt with the storm named after him, it may just be that housing should be the next lost cause on St Jude’s list.