Caroline Flint Memo

Photographers have taken a pic of a cabinet memo, held by one Caroline Flint on her way to the meeting. One has to feel slightly sorry for her to have her thoughts placed in the public domain like this (with the photograph plastered all over the news sites). (Pic of memo) This is what it says (with some guesswork, which is in italics):

Caroline Flint - Speaking Notes for Cabinet

  • Colleagues will know tha (obscured by a sticker with the text 'Papers for Cabinet Meeting 13 May 2008) present.
  • Leading house prices ind (obscured) falls for the first time in recent years. Given present trends they will clearly show sizeable falls in prices later this year - at best down 5-10% year-on-year
  • House building is also stalling. New starts are already down 10% compared to a year ago. Housebuilders are predicting further falls. Having seen net additions reach roughly 200,000 in each of the last two years, the figure for 2008-09 is almost certain to be well down on that.
  • Repossessions are also rising, although we need to remember that the 2007 figure was still only around a third of that in 1991.
  • Underlying demand for housing remains high and the fundamentals of the economy are sound. But the market is being affected by the global credit crunch, which is making it difficult for many who would like to buy to do so.
  • We can't know how bad it will get. But we need to plan now to put in place effective measures against the risk that it does get worse and to prepare for the up-turn.
  • We are continuing to monitor the situation, and take appropriate action.
  • The Chancellor and I met some of the largest mortgage lenders recently to continue discussions on what more the Government and the industry could be doing. I have subsequently met a number of the smaller lenders.
  • We are playing our part to get the market moving with the Bank of England's £50 billion liquidity scheme. We have also put in place new measures to ensure the small minority of buyers facing repossession receive the support and advice they need. And I will tomorrow announce a package of measures to assist first time buyers.

But it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side:

Repossessions

  • Last Friday Alastair and I announced a new package of measures to support home owners who may be facing difficulties with their mortgage....

The biggest concern I have with this document is importance attached to the phrase: 'it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side'

Surely the most vital thing is to take the appropriate financial decisions. Not to concentrate on spin and PR.

Silly me, for one second I forgot it was 'New Labour'.

Before posting, I had a quick trawl around, and I'm not the only one taking this view. For example, someone calling themselves 'The Hunstman' says:

Instead of reminding themselves of the Party Line on how to keep the ravening mob from the door, might not this sentence have proceeded, for example, thus:

"It is vital that, at this time of uncertainty, that we take bold positive steps to remedy the problem. To that end we should proceed to a programme of tax cuts and radical deregulation designed to breathe new life into the economy so that the worst effects of the housing crisis which our policies have in large part created might be mitigated".

Instead Flint and the rest of the crew take the position that, whatever else happens, they must make sure the public do not think for a nanosecond that they are responsible in any measure for this mess.

Guido Fawkes says:

The final sentence visible concludes, in bold type, that most importantly: "... it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side". You see that is the thing with New Labour politicians, what they care most about is covering their arse. Not that they would think to introduce an emergency growth package as Bush has done in the U.S., or cut taxes to boost growth like they have elsewhere in Europe. No, the most important thing is that they push their disingenuous spin slogan that they are "on people's side".

LabourHome has a copy of the text though all they can say it 'Not much in these speaking notes that hasn't already been speculated in the newspapers.' (what, no comment on the finale of spin, chaps?)

RainerPR links to a few sources, saying:

We know the Labour Government is lousy at keeping secrets, but Housing Minister Caroline Flint dropped a clanger today, unwittingly allowing paps to get a shot of her Cabinet notes which acknowledged the state of the housing marketing in the UK.

Although I think blogger Guy Fawkes is over the top in calling for Flint to be charged under the Official Secrets Act, I do agree that Flint’s closing statement is classic New Labour bollocks: “... it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side,” she writes.

What’s required is firm action, not a few clumsily-spun words.

I quite agree.

At the time of writing, the above links to every article that google and technorati produce on this matter.

To make this as complete a roundup as possible, here are some conventional news sources on this issue. As I searched for this, another story started to break about a second leak today. I've mixed these in too....