"For the vast majority of people in the country today they have never had it so good ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started, because anybody, most people with a mortgage who were paying a lot of money each month, suddenly started paying very little each month. That could make three, four, five, six hundred pounds a month difference, free of tax. That is why the retail sales have kept very good all the way through."This revealing revamp of Harold Macmillan's famous boast of 1957 infuriated David Cameron because it punches a hole right through his stealth strategy. The brutal truth that Young let out of the bag is that this is now indeed two nations: those who have jobs and own their homes, versus those who rent, are in low paid jobs or are not employed. This glaring inequality is not, as so many on the Left persist in believing, merely the legacy of that "Thatcherism" for which Lord Young was once a spokesman, but more so of New Labour's "intense relaxation" about income inequality.
We're not a nation split exactly in half - perhaps 66% live in Lord Young's "never so good" part while 33% languish outside it. But although Young's statement may be true of the current situation, with historically low interest rates, that doesn't mean we've reached a sustainable prosperity, any more than we had under Gordon Brown's credit boom. Take a look at the statistics for home ownership throughout Europe and the picture is blood-curdling. The countries with higher ownership than the UK are Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Hungary and Romania, all countries in desperate straits and hardly models we'd wish to copy. The countries with lower ownership include Germany, Holland, Sweden and France, all of which are in far better shape than us in almost every way. So just how good do we have it?
Young has indeed let the predatory cat out of the bag - he also admitted that Osborne lied about the severity of the deficit to protect the pound. Under a disguise of social liberalism this is a goverment of economic predation, intent on rolling back state expenditure to further the interests of the 66% at the expense of the 33%. From a utilitarian point of view - and that's the vote winning point of view nowadays - that might be seen as a rational course, but I doubt the 33% will see it that way. There may be a lot more fire extinguishers thrown from a lot more roofs before this is over.