Thursday, 17 June 2010

A lesson for "The Telegraph"

Today, Ian Cowie blogs Why 'irresponsible lending' helped me and millions of others. Indeed, the syntax of his title (“why” instead of “how” and “me” before “others”) are perhaps the most revealing in an article which is bereft of accuracy both economically and historically, not to mention in its appreciation of human motivation.

You might expect Zero-credit to take issue with The Telegraph over the view that rising property prices are conducive to economic stability. The correlation between average house prices at some eight times average income makes home ownership amongst younger people highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. Indeed, when the lowest income for the top 10% of UK earners is some £44kpa, even a 75% mortgage on an average home equates to a hefty 3.4 times annual salary. Quite who Ian Cowie is banking on to effect his cherished brick-based recovery is beyond me, when even our upwardly mobile seem hard pressed to afford a semi these days.

However, of far greater concern, given the charge of “living under hedges on a diet of roots and berries” to anyone who questions the importance of credit, is the misrepresentation of the 1950s as having “social mobility falling to zero”. Average weekly earnings rose by 34% from 1955-1960; car ownership by 250% from 1951-1961 and “by the mid 1950s, only one man in three had the same social status by occupation as his father and only one son in four of an unskilled labourer remained unskilled” (Visual Arts Data Service, University College for the Creative Arts).

Far from being “dreary”, the1950s were a veritable hive of social, economic and artistic activity. For one, Harold Macmillan invested heavily in social housing, for another we should not have had the migration of the Windrush years were there not an economy to support it. More creative recounting from The Telegraph can be seen in Ian Cowie's ignorance of the Festival of Britain, the Royal Court, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, the creation of resident opera and ballet companies at Covent Garden and the stellar rise of the likes of Mary Quant from boutique owner in 1955 to international designer by 1962.

Moreover, as the grand-daughter of an escaped prisoner of the First World War who indeed lived on a diet of Black Forest roots and berries, returning to barter shoe repairs so as to raise a family of five -  these going on to become an independent retailer, an international car designer, an international opera singer, a senior theatre sister and a precision engineering mechanic - I see can no evidence of reduced social mobility in the 1950s whatsoever. What I do see in today's Telegraph is the misplaced opportunism of an inflated property portfolio. 

Self-interest may be the one motivation that Ian Cowie can always rely on, but without the humanitarian motivation of Mother Theresa, Mandela or Martin Luther King, precisely where should civilised society be? Indeed, whilst we're on the subject of unintended consequences, this teacher has some homework to set The Daily Telegraph - a touch of quality creative writing, for a change: 


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley.
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