Taxing second homes

In an article published in The Daily Telegraph this week, (An Englishman’s second home is not a castle) Country Life Editor at large Clive Aslet argues that second home owners deserve a Capital Gains Tax break. I think that there are more alert Conservatives post the General Election who appreciate that the depth of manure we find ourselves in requires the hardest of choices when it comes to trying to recover our position following thirteen years of Labour mismanagement. Clive argues in typically genteel fashion that second home owners were not the people the Prime Minister had in mind in his very first speech on May 11th when he said “those who can should

As Editor at Large of Country Life, the in-house catalogue for second home owners Clive has been an inspiration to many of us down the years and his contribution to the education of myself and to many others in matters of the heritage of this country and the environment we enjoy is second to none. However, I respectfully suggest that he has misread the new Conservative mood and that with a self-confessed vested interest as the owner of a second home he speaks for what I hope is only a minority now – the Tory old guard who helped the Party loose it’s way in the nineties and made it an electoral embarrassment.

As Clive was kind enough to share with Telegraph readers two years ago when I had naively thought I had mentioned in confidence that I had been in Cornwall stalking mackerel with the then leader of the Opposition (neither of us at the time staying in second homes for the benefit of the tape!) a ‘big tent’ with ‘big ideas’ was what David Cameron wanted to offer having just been elected leader. An attractive and credible vision to the modern if slightly embarrassed instinctive Conservative. Some of my best friends own second properties and I understand that none would welcome a tax on their holiday homes but with over a million waiting on Council lists for a first home, many in the more popular second home areas where Clive may indeed have his ‘bolt hole’ there is little doubt that those “middle-class people who feel they have earned the right to relax in pleasant surroundings” as Clive describes them , people who can afford to buy a second home not only leave a considerable green wellie print in their enthusiasm to bring their civilising influence from SW3 but are people who are also quite capable of contributing more. We won’t fix things with charity, good deeds and cream teas!

The assertion that Central London (where Clive says he has his main residence) isn’t a good enough place to bring up three boys is an unconvincing argument despite my own experiences. Since he is at pains to point out that he and Mrs A would “willingly do without” considering selling their 2nd home to pay school fees “if there were a suitable secondary school nearby” I feel it may be worth pointing out another change in attitude that 21st Century Conservatives in Government now espouse and one that I believe has struck a cord with many people after years of State support –  ‘if it’s broke, then pitch in and fix it yourself’!