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Daily Telegraph - Nineties As Good As Sixties (Lots Of House Price References!)

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I’ve been thinking about the Nineties quite a lot recently. You know, in that slightly hazy, lens-flared Instagrammed way that people think about the Sixties.

Before you say it’s my age, it’s not – or at least not entirely. My bout of Nineties nostalgia has been triggered by Shane Meadows’s This is England '90 and trailers for the adaptation of John Niven’s scabrous Britop novel Kill Your Friends. Also, let’s face it, nostalgia-wise, we’ve strip-mined the Eighties down to bedrock: there’s been a Karate Kid remake, for God’s sake. It’s time to move on and start reminiscing about something new.

Anyway, what my little walks down memory lane have me thinking is that, actually, the Nineties were fantastic. And not just because I was 26, not 46 and sleep was optional. It was a great decade to be young. We had cool music. We had cool drugs. We had (sort of) cool politicians, some of the time. We thought history had ended in a good way. Anything seemed possible. Dare I say it, the Nineties were our Sixties. This may seem a little hyperbolic, but bear with me.

I got a sneak preview of the Nineties way back in 1988. I’d taken a gap year which, like most gap years back then, was taken entirely for kicks and with no notion of following a passion or becoming more attractive to universities or employers. At the end of it, on the plane back from Chicago, I sat next to a DJ who told me about a new style of dance music he wanted to bring to London. I listened, then promptly forgot all about it and buggered off to York University, where culturally it was still 1985 and being cool meant having found a New Romantic group your mates hadn’t heard of.

Three years later, in 1991, I finally made it down to London. The decade looked, at first glance, rather less promising than its predecessor. John Major, a man who is consistently underrated as a nasty Tory, had created a horrendous graduate recession. Your choices as a university leaver were accountancy, law or unemployment. I plumped for the third and dressed it up as an internship with an art dealer I knew.

In fact, being barely employed in London was fine back then, because property cost nothing. This bears repeating. You left your provincial uni and went to stay a mate who lived in London while you looked for a flat. The question you asked yourself was, “Which part of Zone 1 do I want to live in while I look for a job?” We all found places in cheap, tatty neighbourhoods like Notting Hill and Clerkenwell and Camden. Later in the decade I would buy a three bed flat in NW3 for £110,000. Sadly, I sold it for it for £250,000; it would now cost around £2m.

Cheap property had other knock-on effects. Most of us could walk to work (and walk home at 4am when we’d finished clubbing). We had tiny commutes and living in places like Swiss Cottage and Chiswick was considered eccentric and pointless. Also, you know all that crap estates agents spout about “urban villages”? Well, back then London did feel quite villagey, because most of your friends lived within walking distance - and your neighbours were normal people, not workaholic bankers and sundry Russians. We were both poorer and richer than today’s graduates.

Our meagre outgoings and negligible work commitments meant that our careers came a very distant second to having fun. This was great as something big was happening in London. After decades of grey, post imperial decline (remember, for quite a while, Manchester was cooler) the capital was stirring. One of the early signs of this was the appearance of seriously stylish clubs. Where once London clubs were grim rip-off joints with metropolitan pretensions and weird Seventies hangovers, they suddenly became the sort of places you found in New York. I dread to think what proportion of my twenties was spent in the Atlantic, in the queue for the Atlantic or waiting for taxis after the Atlantic.

Speaking of which, music had also become cool. A lot of people sneer at Britpop but actually it was kind of great – and what’s more it was ours. The last truly home-grown musical movement before the internet globalised youth culture forever. Besides, if you didn’t like endlessly taking sides in the Blur-Oasis battle or agonising over whether Pulp were heirs to The Smiths, there was plenty more. We had dance, rap and grunge (both still exotic imports) and, of course, the Spice Girls, who now look like the most inexplicable period piece ever. People actually had opinions on Geri Haliwell.

Great music requires great drugs and we had those too. Ecstasy and cocaine were everywhere – and we didn’t have that boring, po-faced line between drink and drugs. We drank loads and then did drugs so we could drink more. We laughed at the Mail’s “Binge Britain” headlines. We sometimes went to work straight from the club as, for a while, clubbing on Sundays was quite the done thing. Monday morning downers and serotonin-sapped “Suicide Tuesdays” didn’t matter. You lived for weekends – and besides, in the Nineties, slacking was still cool. Nobody pretended they loved their job.

It wasn’t just about hedonism, though. There was genuine optimism in the air. The Eastern Bloc had crumbled and the good guys had won. This meant a sudden influx of exciting, exotic new people. I briefly acquired a Russian supermodel girlfriend. That a supermodel would date me, however briefly, makes me realise just how grim the former Soviet Union must have been.

But it also points to a nice thing about Nineties London. It was strangely egalitarian. We didn’t yet have a city where the super-rich had turned the best bits into a socially cleansed VIP section. You went to bars and clubs and pubs and you met genuinely famous people. I lose count of the number celebrities and movers and shakers (Ollie Reed stands out for some reason) I bumped into, usually half cut, in the Nineties. It was a bit like being a drunk Forrest Gump.

In a similar vein, it was a great time to open a business. Britain had rediscovered entrepreneurship in Eighties and, a decade on, we ditched the Thatcherite ideology and set up companies we actually liked. I lucked out here and founded a photo gallery that accidentally became famous by being the first to take rock ‘n’ roll photography seriously (thank you, Dennis Morris). OK, in the longer run, it taught me that galleries are a terrible way to make money (and a good way not to go on holiday for a decade) but still, I went to a lot of parties and met an awful lot of famous people. In fact, it’s only since I’ve become old and boring that I’ve realised just how lucky I was.

It wasn’t just a cultural renaissance either. There was the political climate – Major’s government sliding towards its inevitable, sleazy, exhausted end and, later, the fantastic feeling of hope Blair bought with him. In fact, if I had to encapsulate the Nineties in a few hours, it would be the sunny morning after New Labour swept to power. I would probably have been walking to work, past stuccoed squares where friends lived, humming some Britpop number, hungover from an election party, but filled with the feeling that the world had become a better place. That feeling really was incredible – the most uncynical I’ve ever been about politics and a million miles from the soggy Tory non-victory 13 years later that ended New Labour.

Let’s see – what else? We had the start of the dot-com boom. We had magazines like Loaded and Viz. Films like Trainspotting. We had gender equality without today’s hair-trigger sensitivity and public shamings (yes, ladettes, I miss you too). Food was getting better but hadn’t yet become a tedious, all-encompassing obsession. Wages went up, not down. Global warming was a vague future threat – and nothing to do with your skiing holiday. Galleries like the Tate Bankside opened. Beards were short or non-existent. And, speaking of which, Islamist terrorism was a mere twinkle in the largely unknown Osama Bin Laden’s eye...

Of course, inevitably, it went bad. We had the dot-com bust. The 2000 US election with its hanging chads. 9/11. History hadn’t ended. Environmental problems got real. We invaded Iraq and cool Tony because GW Bush’s BF. House prices doubled and doubled again. Capitalism ran amok.

But for just over 10 years, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11, the world was great and London was its amazing centre. I look at today’s twentysomethings and it’s true that they’ve got cheap flights and dirty burgers and craft ales and the internet on their phones and social media. But I wouldn’t swap places with them.

In fact, unless the 2010s have an incredible surprise up their sleeves, the 90s will have been the best decade of the last 50 years. We had it so good.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11877919/Why-the-Nineties-were-just-as-good-as-the-Sixties.html

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Nugget in the economist a couple of weeks back. They took the long view of asset prices, and found the '90s "sweet spot" offered the cheapest property - in real terms measured against means - since about 1830.

(around a decade ago was, as we all know, historically expensive, but today's costs are middling after dipping below average around 2010).

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think you have a point about it being a great decade. I think about cutlure and cycles, how we just tend to rinse and repeat every 7 years. Currently I think we are on a bit of a 21 year cycle from the 90s.

Fashion and culture is now so heavily focused on the 90's. Nirvana, Rave culture, shell suits, round shades, etc. All of this stuff is now so highly desirable for the early mid 20s set. If you look at companies like Palace (skate clothing) lots of their stuff is 90s based: Football italia 90s cross overs, Rebook Classics. Also television, Twin Peaks is now so massive again, there is even a pop up restaurant opening.

I think you will quickly see the beard and tattoo craze disappear!

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never lived in london so have no opinion on that part, but the rest is true.

Calvin Harris just makes an inferior version of what we danced to in the early 90's and you can't get a proper E anymore.

No one cared about The Middle east or Islam.

There was no Facebook

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I was at school most of the 90's but it seemed better/more logical then.

My first job at weekends was washing up and the senior kitchen porters through hard work/long hours bought themselves bottom level terraced housing at about 25k.

Looking back Major caught the period after the property crash and New labour enjoyed leveraging it all back to the bubble we have today.

That is the problem with the public if your prudent/boring they will vote someone else in to run up all the debt and everyone is happy until its rinse and repeat time.

At this moment in time it would take a huge bout of deleveraging to get back to those good times and resulting cheap property boom. Our current politicians are more concerned with getting another wafer thin mint into the Mr Creosote of public debt than returning us to more prudent times.

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Once again mentioning nothing on how mass immigration, to London particuarly, had a seismic effect on the capitals house prices. Ironicaly, mentions the fall of the Berlin Wall but either doesn't see or refuses to admit the role this had in the house price inflation mix (yea I know it wasnt JUST mass immigration).

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Yep the 90's were great. As a student I could work just over the summer holidays and have enough money for the rest of the year, £30 a week rent, a tenner in the pot for utilities and enough left over for 3 nights out a week to the various pound a pint student nights..

After Sept 11th when they dropped interest rates to 40 year lows is when I remember everything changed.. When you think about it Mr Bin Laden did succeed in changing our way of life, for those of us who waited who want a 25 year mortgage finishing at 65 the window has nearly closed.

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At 22 i was earning in todays money £30k+basic a year in a factory without even an O level working 37.5 hours a week.I could get £150 a week extra for working 12 hours on a sunday in 93.I didnt bother often.Bought a house for £24k and didnt even really think about it.My bills (including mortgage) were so cheap i think all in they came to 20% of my income (council tax was 43 minutes work a week on my wages).I saved 40% of my income before any bills were paid and went out at least 3 nights a week.Had a final salary pension,free shares,share save,6 months sick pay.My employer was hugely profitable.

The elite didnt like that and decided people like me shouldnt have a stable life.Now someone in the same factory jobs will get NMW and temporary contracts,3% money purchase pensions,no sick pay and no house.Bills also will be huge to pay for all the rentiers and civil servants.I had an 70/80% disposable income.Now it would be probable 10%.ie nothing.Mass immigration is a huge factor in that and the growth of the EU machine that talked workers rights while destroying wages.

Its shocking how far wrong its gone for ordinary decent people who work etc.Better to opt out rather than feed the beast.

"Pour your misery down on me",,Garbage said in to 90s,,and thats just what the system has done to the following generations.

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Trouble is we didn't realise just how good John Major and Ken Clarke were in delivering the cheapest post war house prices by 1995 and a national debt in freefall. It was taken for granted.

The direction of debt is something the left will never acknowledge. Debt continued to fall after 1997 because it was falling, you can't hand brake turn debt as is clear from the last five years of Brown's debt legacy. You're stuck with the legacy and bonkers promises already made.

Of course we crucified them in 1997, the miracle was overcoming a terrible legacy from the Lawson boom and delevering a damn good nineties.

Edited by crashmonitor

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Great article... the the best part the nineties was the fact that nobody else had any money:

China - nope

Russia - nope

Dubai - nope

The 'Asian tigers' - nope

Korea - nope

Japan - not any more!

It's not happening again.

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I agree, I have really fond memories of the 90's - seemed like a happier more innocent time.

I turned 18 in 2002 and I think that pop culture started to turn to sh*t around then, and has gotten steadily worse. For most of the decade after that I just disengaged from most pop culture and listened to the old music that I liked, but now in the last 3 to 5 years I find myself actively repulsed by today's youth culture, from the self-important social justice warriors and their humorless chronic offense at everything, to the narcissistic vacuous posturing that fills people's Facebook feeds.

I also find it ironic that while we're supposedly living in such enlightened times when it comes to female empowerment (with the horrors of third wave feminism), most of the women in the music industry are more overtly sexual than ever, waggling their **** and tits in your face consistently (and in a way that is strangely not erotic - e.g. Miley Cyrus). I watch some Joni Mitchell footage from the 60's - 80's and there's an attractive woman, graceful and attractive and didn't need to shake her bits in your face to get your attention.

As for relationships and dating...some of my peers in their early 30's have decided just not to bother with kids. Some are married to people they can't stand. Those who made the mistake of staying single till their late 20's have had to shack up with horrific single mothers.

The game now seems very much rigged, to the point that if you don't come from money, your better letting the state pay for everything than try and work to support a family. Yet the boomer generation deny this when you try and call them up on it.

I don't think this generation will be able to look back on the last 15 years in 20 or 30 years time and say that they 'did' anything or that there was anything to be proud of.

Edited by JoeDavola

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Trouble is we didn't realise just how good John Major and Ken Clarke were in delivering the cheapest post war house prices by 1995 and a national debt in freefall. It was taken for granted.

Was there a deliberate policy by Major/Clarke to reduce house prices? Or was it just a period of economic stagnation?

National debt in freefall? The 1992-1997 Tory government didn't run a surplus in any year and ran a far higher debt than New Labour (similar in cash terms, higher in percentage of GDP) until the 2008 events.

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I agree, I have really fond memories of the 90's - seemed like a happier more innocent time.

I turned 18 in 2002 and I think that pop culture started to turn to sh*t around then, and has gotten steadily worse. For most of the decade after that I just disengaged from most pop culture and listened to the old music that I liked, but now in the last 3 to 5 years I find myself actively repulsed by today's youth culture, from the self-important social justice warriors and their humorless chronic offense at everything, to the narcissistic vacuous posturing that fills people's Facebook feeds.

I also find it ironic that while we're supposedly living in such enlightened times when it comes to female empowerment (with the horrors of third wave feminism), most of the women in the music industry are more overtly sexual than ever, waggling their **** and tits in your face consistently (and in a way that is strangely not erotic - e.g. Miley Cyrus). I watch some Joni Mitchell footage from the 60's - 80's and there's an attractive woman, graceful and attractive and didn't need to shake her bits in your face to get your attention.

As for relationships and dating...some of my peers in their early 30's decided just not to bother with kids. Some are married to people they can't stand. Those who made the mistake of staying single till their late 20's have had to shack up with horrific single mothers.

The game now seems very much rigged, to the point that if you don't come from money, your better letting the state pay for everything than try and work to support a family. Yet the boomer generation deny this when you try and call them up on it.

I don't think this generation will be able to look back on the last 15 years in 20 or 30 years time and say that they 'did' anything or that there was anything to be proud of.

The same is/has happened in my peer group. Not much baby making going on and very unlikely considering the age group (37-38) same can be said of my wife's old circle. I'd be surprised if 30% of the couples I know went on to procreate. Lucky them not to bring anyone into this topsy-turvy world :crazy:

There are some fine looking ladies in their forties coming out the other side of broken down relationships/families and that'll probably carry until the sunsets. I know so many once pretty females that have let themselves go, looks aren't everything but self-respect is and I find that a great turn-off.

The 90s were good times for me too, cheap everything and carefree.

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It's very frustrating to realise that you were born just a few years too late to be on the right side of the wealth divide. Anyone who started work after the turn of the century has been screwed over for no reason that I can see.

Remember the year 2000 celebrations? History seemed to finally be going the right way - the cold war over, the threat of nuclear armageddon left behind, Northern Ireland at peace, the EU still a force for good. The new century was going to be fair and tolerant and we'd have a meritocracy where people could be rewarded for their hard work.

Then, as soon as possible, the people who run the country ******ed it all up for my generation.

Older homeowners constantly use Black Wednesday as evidence that they 'struggled'. But I'd pick a Black Wednesday every year in preference to the current situation.

John Major seemed pretty uninspiring and pretty awful at the time, but in hindsight he was the best Prime Minister I've seen in my lifetime. I wish they hadn't privatised the railways, though. Remember 'sleaze'? Compare with the things today's politicians just shrug off.

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Frankly, I thought the 90s was a tad shite.

Early 90s -I graduated into a recession, and pre-internet days - job searches involved scanning the local papers/newscientist/guardian along with thousands of others. Similarly, job applications were written by hand - and you'd still never get a response. Making phone calls was expensive and no-one had mobiles. I was lucky, but some of my peers spent a couple of years unemployed. Looking for a place to live was similarly challenging.

Technology occupied that bitter spot where it would never quite do what it promised (nowadays it largely does) and cost an absolute fortune.

No Doctor Who - except for some crappy american version.

Music was OK. I was a VJ in the mid 90s in the rave scene while holding down a normal day job. That was fun.

I got to London literally a couple of weeks before 2000 so unable to take advantage of the cheap prices (rentals weren't cheap) and got there just in time for dotcom boom to collapse.

The internet was the one saving grace, and even that was rather rubbish for most of it (although at least only the geeks knew about it). I was on the WWW by August 1993.

But I guess it's now far enough away for everyone to start looking at it with rose tinted glasses.

Edited by StainlessSteelCat

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Frankly, I thought the 90s was a tad shite.

Early 90s -I graduated into a recession, and pre-internet days - job searches involved scanning the local papers/newscientist/guardian along with thousands of others. Similarly, job applications were written by hand - and you'd still never get a response. Making phone calls was expensive and no-one had mobiles. I was lucky, but some of my peers spent a couple of years unemployed. Looking for a place to live was similarly challenging.

Technology occupied that bitter spot where it would never quite do what it promised (nowadays it largely does) and cost an absolute fortune.

No Doctor Who - except for some crappy american version.

Music was OK. I was a VJ in the mid 90s in the rave scene while holding down a normal day job. That was fun.

I got to London literally a couple of weeks before 2000 so unable to take advantage of the cheap prices (rentals weren't cheap) and got there just in time for dotcom boom to collapse.

The internet was the one saving grace, and even that was rather rubbish for most of it (although at least only the geeks knew about it). I was on the WWW by August 1993.

But I guess it's now far enough away for everyone to start looking at it with rose tinted glasses.

It seems a bit pointless to bitch about 'technology'...its completely separate from wider social trends...Germany still has technology and cheap housing, Japan still had its bust and still has technology, even Saudi has technology and yet still gets to pretend its the dark ages, socially speaking.

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Best time of my life the 90's, carefree,houses 36K I was a clerk at the civil service and bought a 3 story 3 bed victorian house in south east london for 53K!! morgage £280 pcm,spent the 90's chasing fanny,drinking and playing paintball,driving a celica generally having a great time

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It seems a bit pointless to bitch about 'technology'...its completely separate from wider social trends...Germany still has technology and cheap housing, Japan still had its bust and still has technology, even Saudi has technology and yet still gets to pretend its the dark ages, socially speaking.

We're reviewing a decade - and frankly the technology of the 90s generally over promised, under delivered - and was expensive to boot. As someone who ended up working in an increasingly technological series of professions, it contributed to making my working life for much of the 90s a right pain in the ass.

I don't see how you can divorce technology from wider social trends as there is often a virtuous or vicious circle. Social trends can drive technological development, or be influenced by it. How you use it, and its effects, can also be localised cf the impact of massive investments in tech in South Korea - it effectively turned a country which was a bit of a back water into an economic powerhouse in the space of a decade or so - not mention it having an increasingly large cultural impact on the world.

The UK in it's usual way was slightly ahead of the curve at the beginning of the 90s, but had fumbled it by the end of them due to general ignorance and lack of investment.

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Every decade gets its moment in the nostalgia sunshine. The 90s will get its re-run but I can't help thinking it's too soon and it won't last long when it does happen. Britain changed remarkably little in those 10 years. If you gave people a time machine I doubt many people would opt to revisit unless it was to by shares in Apple.

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Every decade gets its moment in the nostalgia sunshine. The 90s will get its re-run but I can't help thinking it's too soon and it won't last long when it does happen. Britain changed remarkably little in those 10 years. If you gave people a time machine I doubt many people would opt to revisit unless it was to by shares in Apple.

I disagree, it was not a perfect time but if you had a job you could afford housing. To buy a house that in the 90s you could buy on £15k p.a. now needs about £10k just in stamp duty.

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Hasn't it always been great? 50s, 60s, 70s (inflation caught a few out who weren't in the right employment position to flow wage inflation), 80s (apart from bubble-head buyers at end of 80s) and 90s.

I bought my first house in the very early 1980's. It was three bedroomed terraced house in a decent part of Sheffield, it cost about £10,500 and my pay was about £5,750.

After a couple of years my job took me to London, in price terms I virtually swapped my Sheffield house for a one bedroom flat with an SW1 post code, Sloane Square was less than a five minute walk away and the nearest "off licence" was Berry Brothers & Rudd.

A couple of years after that I paid about £22,000 for a two bedroom flat in Fulham, I think at the time my wages had topped £10,000. Property costs can't have been too much of a burden because soon after I bought a Porsche.

Incidentally, I had no student debts and a rock solid final salary pension that subsequently allowed me to retire at 55.

Absolutely none of this is available to my children. They're fortunate in that I can afford to match for them the benefits that I was lucky enough to enjoy, but anyone from my generation who thinks their own hard work and industry were the keys to their good fortune is just taking nonsense. We were the most privileged generation that has ever lived.

vs today.

[. . .]Contrast that with a 30 something professional, renting a ‘studio’ flat for a hefty percentage of their take-home pay despite working long hours, and with the constant threat of eviction hanging over them lest they complain about the broken shower head or the mould spreading inexorably across the wall. No end in sight. In that situation you are forced to consider the meaning of the work you are doing each day, perhaps even the meaning of your entire existence, or at the very least your participation in a society that seems so hell-bent on extracting the proceeds of your toil and handing it to the indebted parasitic spivs of the modern rentier class, that you may come to the conclusion that the very act of participation in that society makes you the victim.
I have my own story about choosing the ‘wrong’ path, and have been punished dearly for being productive in the face of HPI and the nauseating ascendance of the rent-seeker. However, I haven’t yet withdrawn into non-participation. I’m still fighting the good fight. I will continue to be productive, create wealth and social value, I’ll strive to innovate and to create employment for myself and others that brings fulfilment. I’ll forever try to make a difference, because, after all this talk of finding a reason to work, that’s mine.

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Was there a deliberate policy by Major/Clarke to reduce house prices? Or was it just a period of economic stagnation?

National debt in freefall? The 1992-1997 Tory government didn't run a surplus in any year and ran a far higher debt than New Labour (similar in cash terms, higher in percentage of GDP) until the 2008 events.

The figures would say otherwise, the UK economy regained its poise by 1992 and growth was steady throughout the rest of the decade. and the debt to GDP ratio was less than 40%. You are confusing absolute debt in nominal terms to the ratio to GDP and inflationary effects. Indeed you could run deficits all the time and if the economy was growing strongly enough all but eliminate the debt in percentage terms. Oft mentioned that Lamont's green shoots were there in abundance but the ONS screwed it up for him with the Mother of all revisions made later. But I guess the ONS propaganda and other things are still stuck in people's minds as opposed to the reality of the situation.

I did mention that Lawson buggered up the economy in his growth dash around 1989. My point was that Major managed the reset without artificial props and the growth that followed proved that was the right thing to do. meanwhile we are totally screwed eight years after the Brown boom, debt at 80% of GDP (off balance sheet aside) and Brown's boom was so big and the welfare promises so massive there is no reset strategy or way out.

I lived through the 90s, working and owning property, times were good.

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/nov/25/gdp-uk-1948-growth-economy

Edited by crashmonitor

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I disagree, it was not a perfect time but if you had a job you could afford housing. To buy a house that in the 90s you could buy on £15k p.a. now needs about £10k just in stamp duty.

I agree but there were some of us who had two bites of the cherry those of us who came of age in the early eighties, if you were in a job Tax was less every year, property was even cheaper and cars were improving dramatically Audi Coupe I bought in 1985 was a quantum leap in technology. Partied literally 6 nights a week in clubs not getting P**** around friends houses and a degree was very much an option not a requirement for entering a good corporate career.

Blip at the end 1989 -1992 and then hey presto rinse and repeat towards 2000. It was like being on the Apollo space short in the Apollo 13 film when the engines burn then stop and the astronauts float back in their seats and then the second stage rockets cut in. Everything post 2000 has all been been a bit flat compared to that it seems

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