So did things really get any better? I’m just wondering. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997 the TV clips tell me that one of the songs played was “things can only get better.”
The campaign was built around this message; it was uplifting, it was inspiring, people wanted to be part of such a movement. They do not want to be part of (we are told by the experts) something more sober, such as ‘we should manage our decline sensibly.’ The campaign cannot be run on the message that, ‘the public sector is bloated and needs to be controlled etc, etc.’ This is not what inspires people.
Yes, Tony Blair told the electorate that things could, indeed, only get better. And they lapped it up, I’m told. I was not actually on the ground in 1997 as I was 16 living in Ireland. Still, the election was viewed very closely and most Irish people, from memory, thought Tony was just top notch and that indeed things could only get better.
Things were certainly getting better in Ireland, being in the middle of the Celtic Tiger and all. You barely got change from a tenner for one drink if memory serves me right. Which it may not. What can I say, it was a long time ago.
Anyway, I digress. But the numbers are in and I think on balance we can say things definitely did not get any better. And I am basing this judgment on the single and rather mind-shattering statistic that the Adam Smith Institute estimates that there has been a fall of 160,000 in the number of children born in the UK because of rising house prices.
That is: 160,000 missing children. So there you go Margaret Atwood. You did not need an environmental disaster to bring on a fertility collapse. You just need a boom in house prices.
House prices tripled between 1995 and 2016, but young adults also face student loans due to a wretchedly unfair university system, set up under Blair.
There are too many people at university anyway, all because Tony Blair said at least 50 per cent of young people should go to university. Were we ever told why? I think we can just file this under ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time.’
British families also face one of the highest tax-burdens in decades, and the UK is one of the most unfamily friendly tax systems in the world. Although there are child tax credits, there is no child tax allowance for all families, something that most other European countries have.
Andrew Sabisky of the Adam Smith Institute says: ‘The housing crisis is wrecking the lives of the people of this country, preventing them from having the children they want to have. This private tragedy will, in the long-run, entail massive knock-on costs to public finances.’
The study, entitled Children Of When (a play on the dystopia Children of Men), claims this caused a 1.3 per cent fall in the number of births between 1996 and 2014, equating to 157,000 fewer children being born.
‘In the ten years between 2004 and 2014, home ownership fell from 60 per cent to 35 per cent among 25-34-year-olds – the key child-bearing demographic.
These 25-34-year-olds grew up under Blair. He was Prime Minister from 1997-2007. This is his legacy to them: voluntary infertility. Ironic, considering he has four kids himself. Lucky, rich, duck.
What do we do? Whatever the Adam Smith Institute says, ‘Free-market reforms to housing regulations could help raise fertility and improve the country’s long-term economic and social prospects.’ It is all very sensible. And the university system needs reform. It is basic free-market stuff. You know – conservatism. Try that. Then we might see a baby boom instead of a house price boom in the next decade. A baby is a joy – a house with an artificially inflated price tag is not.
(Image: Ewan Munro)