Use of Weapons
This week: it’s time to weaponise NIMBYism; the Bethnal Green tube disaster; and all roads lead to Rome.
Early yesterday evening, word began to spread through journalism circles that the Telegraph had a big politics story. Details were scarce, but the phrase “not quite as big as MPs expenses” kept popping up; since the only thing that ruled out was that this would top the biggest political scoop of the past 20 years, certain other papers were said to be in open panic.
And then, shortly before 11pm, it landed: the Telegraph had got hold of Matt Hancock’s entire WhatsApp chat history, covering his time as health secretary during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
What immediately struck me about the paper’s treatment of this scoop was that it didn’t lead on a single, massive story: rather, it dropped half a dozen decent but more modest ones at the same time. And so, while there may be something bigger to come, one has to ask why the paper wouldn’t lead on it on day one, and draw one’s own conclusions. The big takeaways here seem to be “Matt Hancock is a bit embarrassing and not that great at his job”, and “Isabel Oakeshott is the least trustworthy person in Britain”, both of which we already knew. The thing that was not quite as big as MPs’ expenses seems not to have been the story, but the size of the leak.
So forgive me if I leave that there and talk about something else entirely.
[Imagine proper segue here]
One of the questions I always come back to when thinking about the UK’s housing shortage is – why don’t they just make it someone else’s problem? With the exception of the West Midlands, the Conservative party, after all, has basically given up hope of winning power in any of this country’s major cities: some of the more excitable polls have it retaining just one of London’s 73 parliamentary seats. So if urban areas aren’t going to have the slightest impact on Tory fortunes one way or the other, why not simply come up with some changes to the planning system that allows massive expansion of the housing supply there anyway?
By the same token: there are vast swathes of this country that are simply never going to vote Labour. If Orpington can’t be turned now, it never can be. The borough it sits in, Bromley, is London’s largest, accounting for nearly a 10th of the entire capital; yet it is, quite literally, half empty.
Ridiculous idea of a London borough. Image: Open Street Map.
Given all of which – why not build some nice new estates there?
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