Home > blogging for Britain, politics > The first draft of history isn’t always the most reliable…

The first draft of history isn’t always the most reliable…

When Twitter announced its intention to go public last week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24075010), several media commentators repeated the opinion that social media – and Twitter in particular – has replaced traditional journalism as the “first draft of history”. I think there’s some truth in that, as long as one remains aware that first drafts are often imperfect and usually subject to considerable change.

This occurred to me again this morning when I read that George Osborne had confirmed the sale of 6% of Lloyd’s Bank shares via Twitter. George’s Twitter account is run by George and the ‘@Conservatives team’, which might caution you against believing much of their ‘first draft of history’. Still, I am glad that we, the British taxpayers, were able to establish that the first chunk of the money we had paid to bail out the banking system has been returned. According to Unite, the break-even price should be 93p, not 73.6p when adjusted for inflation, but let’s put that to one side for one moment.

Fortunately, George didn’t use the same medium when he opined later in the day that “Five years ago, the previous government forced British taxpayers to put a huge sum of money into bailing out the banks.” Just to clear up any confusion, if the previous government hadn’t ‘forced’  taxpayers to bail out the banks, the entire UK banking system – which was two hours from collapse – would have, indeed, collapsed. As Alistair Darling revealed last week, government’s role in averting that scenario – and any subsequent food riots and complete breakdown in our social fabric – was critical. Whatever one thinks of the last government’s financial stewardship, to suggest that taxpayers were ‘forced’ to bail out the banks is breathtakingly disingenous, as Gideon knows only too well that a Conservative government would have had no choice but to do exactly the same.

The Conservatives have, for years, argued for ‘light-touch’ regulation of the financial sector, and unfortunately their advice was slavishly followed by Gordon Brown and his Chancellor. The 2007 crash, as I have argued before, was ultimately down to human greed, and that greed isn’t confined to those working in the banking industry. Everyone who gleefully discovered that they could ‘afford’ a much more expensive house by agreeing to repayments that would clearly be unsustainable in the face of either an increase in interest rates or a decrease in house prices, or who decided to jump on the buy-to-let ladder, was partly to blame. Blaming the bankers is a cop-out, and it is one of the richer ironies of the past five years that the main beneficiaries of the crash have been right-wing parties who would have presided over exactly the same catastrophic failure of governance.

As with much political discourse in the UK, blame is apportioned along party lines and everyone seems too frightened to point out the real learning that the last few years have provided. In short: a home is primarily a place to live in, not an investment. Unfortunately, boneheaded policies from both major parties over the past 30 years, from the sale of council housing without replacing the housing stock, to interest-only mortgages, to the new and spectacularly stupid ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, have exacerbated the UK’s chronic problem.

Neither the Conservatives or Labour have any credibility in this area, and in an age where consumers exert such power elsewhere it is a miracle that these two shambolic and discredited political parties remain our nation’s largest. Talk about choosing your poison.

The alternative? Well, if there’s something else the growth of social media has facilitated, it’s the rise of single-issue politics and ‘clicktivism’. I can – and do – make my opinion on a range of issues known without going near to an established political party. Which brings us back to Twitter, and the start of this article. My advice: buy as many Twitter shares as you can afford; they’re a better investment than a house.

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