Nuts & Bolts #11 – Brandon’s Bits

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Due to the way this photo is framed, it kind of looks like Boris Johnson (circa 2013) is playing table tennis with a basketball hoop…

Nuts & Bolts – a light(er) look at some bits of housing stuff from the past few days.

(Keep an eye out for (er) and ‘bits’. That’s foreshadowing.)

Ping-Pong Ding-Dong

The Housing and Planning Bill has entered the ‘ping-pong’ stage of debate. Regrettably, this doesn’t involve an epic table tennis tournament involving killer whales and spaceships – rather, it refers to the “to and fro of amendments to Bills between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The etymology of ‘ping-pong’ in the tennis-played-across-a-table sense is not especially interesting – supposedly, it is imitative of sound of the ball hitting a hard surface. What might our other sports be called if, like table tennis – and Pokemon – they were named after what they sound like? Fancy going out for a whizz? Playing a bit of pock? Oh, look, VVROOOOOOOOOM is on the telly.

Given reactions from much of the housing sector and many in the House of Lords, the Housing and Planning Bill could well be named the NO-WHAT-A-TERRIBLE-BADLY-THOUGHT-OUT-SET-OF-IDEOLOGICAL-NONSENSE-WHERE’S-THE-SUPPORTING-EVIDENCE-OH-THAT’S-RIGHT-THERE-ISN’T-ANY Bill. Not a great name admittedly, but Pikachu didn’t choose to sound like an adorable, helium-filled sneeze either.

Brandon’s Bits

One of the most controversial aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill – which is saying something, given how poorly it’s been received by…well, everyone apart from the Government – is the requirement for local authorities to sell high(er) value stock in order to fund the extension of the right-to-buy to housing associations. I’ve already ranted about this ‘voluntary’ extension of the policy elsewhere (here, and over at, and it seems I’m not the only one concerned. Shelter’s latest analysis suggests that a Government amendment in the Housing Bill, that of changing ‘high value’ council homes to ‘higher value’, means councils in England must sell (or provide the equivalent levy) of over 23,000 homes a year in order to meet the cost of extending the right-to-buy – six times more than Shelter estimated previously when applying the original costing threshold regime. To err is human; to ‘er’ is disastrous.

Housing and Planning (to destroy social housing) Minister, Brandon Lewis, responded on Twitter, suggesting he had 16 million reasons he didn’t agree:

Sixteen million! What more can be said about such a number?!

I’m glad you asked:

Tangential curios aside, #ukhousing Twitterati seized on this statistic, as did the Lords during their Housing and Planning Bill debate – see Giles Peaker’s blog for more on that. Despite there being 16 million of the buggers (pieces of data, that is, not Lords; thank goodness…) not a single piece of data was available for cross-examination. How Mr Lewis can use data that has yet to be analysed to refute data that has already been analysed is beyond me – it’s the equivalent of saying “I disagree, because I’m sure my data will be better than yours”, although at present no-one in Government is able to say what any of this data is or says. That’s a lot of chickens to count before hatching.

Gentle facetiousness came via the aforementioned Giles Peaker in his Nearly Legal persona, referring to the 16 million pieces of data as ‘bits’ of data…

…which then led others to speculate whether the Minister had, in fact, meant (computer) Bits, rather than bits.

Of course, he didn’t mean Bits or bits. Indeed, we’re still not sure what he was referring to at all. That’s kind of the point.

Regardless, Shelter were quite open with their data and encouraged Mr Lewis to engage with similar forthrightness.

At the time of writing, Brandon has yet to show anyone his bits.


Lead Image: Darts king Barry Hearn turns his global sights to table tennis (04/01/2013), The Telegraph, Online:, Available: May 2016

16 Million People in the US are Now Vegan or Vegetarian, Raw Food World, Online:, Available: May 2016

‘High’ to ‘higher’ forced sales mean 23,500 council homes lost per year and an average annual £26m bill, Shelter, Online:, Available: May 2016

Mona Lisa’s villa on sale for £16 million, The Telegraph, Online:, Available: May 2016

There are 16 million Nigerians on Facebook, TechCabal, Online:, Available: May 2016

The mystery of the Minister’s many bits, Nearly Legal, Online:, Available: May 2016


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