Rabbit hutch homes set to continue

August 21, 2013

So yesterday’s post was a case of ‘too enthusiastic too soon’: the government’s consultation on living space did not, as it happens, go so far as to back standards on room sizes in new build houses in order to reverse the trend towards increasingly hutch-like homes. In covering the news, the Guardian quotes a housebuilder:

Jeff Fairburn, chief executive of Persimmon, which accounts for about 10% of the new homes market, claimed the reduction in house sizes reflected modern preferences and lifestyles. “We have house types to maximise efficiency. [Today] you have living and cooking spaces at the back of houses and less formal dining space. I don’t recognise claims that houses are too small. That is not the feedback we are getting.”

By ‘feedback we’re getting’, you suspect Mr Fairburn means ‘the feedback we choose to listen to’.


We live in the smallest homes in western Europe

August 20, 2013

The FT today covers the news that communities minister Don Foster is launching a ‘space consultation’, which is not quite as exciting as if the policy being consulted on were about whether we should live on Mars, but likely to be more important. As anyone who’s owned, lived in or visited a home on a newly-built estate will recognise all too vividly, modern dwellings have shrunk compared to their forebears. But I was surprised to read by just how much:

Typical new homes in Britain have nearly halved in size over the last 80 years, making them the smallest in western Europe, as builders try to eke greater profits from their plots of land. The average one-bedroom new-build home now offers space equivalent to a Tube carriage. Developers have been forced to deny the use of cut-size furniture and wall mirrors in their show homes to create the illusion of roominess.

Margins: Gladstone (IX)

January 25, 2013

I loved this glimpse into how William Gladstone spent the days immediately before presenting his first high stakes budget (as Chancellor) to Parliament, in 1853. One can only marvel at how times have changed.

Despite a lukewarm reception from his Cabinet colleagues…

Gladstone was undismayed. On the Sunday after the last of the five Cabinets [at which the budget had been debated] he went to church twice, wrote a small ration of letters … read Dante’s Paradiso, but [in his own words] ‘was obliged to give several hours to my figures.’

Governor Boris

August 6, 2012

I enjoyed this comment piece by the FT’s new political columnist Janan Ganesh, which systematically deflates the Boris for PM balloon. The mayor doesn’t stand a chance, writes Ganesh, because British voters tend to subject politicians to a whole other level of scrutiny when it’s national office at stake:

For all their crabby indifference to politics, Britons ask searching questions of anyone who aspires to govern their country, which is why opposition parties tend to shed support in the run-up to a general election. They will ask those questions of Mr Johnson if he ever made a bid for the highest office. Charm will not be a good enough answer. Even Mr Cameron, a purring Bentley of a career politician, has struggled to exercise true command. Mr Johnson has sublime intellect and a solid record as mayor but his previous attempt at a Westminster career peaked with the job of shadow higher education minister.

Ganesh also suggests a deeper reason for Boris being unlikely to make the transition from City Hall to Westminster proper: ‘Highly devolved nations such as the US are used to the idea that a politician can master a metropolis, or even a state, without being quite right to run a country.’

The converse is true as well, of course: the US provides a key intermediate level, the gubernatorial, with the post of governor having the clout, responsibility and kind of national standing to act as more of a genuine training ground for national politics (as an indication, just witness the influence of Chris Christie and Jeb Bush on the Republican primaries).

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