Of far more interest were a couple of issues debated around the table. Perhaps the most relevant topic was the impact of the recent local authority elections and the overwhelming swing towards the Conservatives. There was a lot of reflection about what the combination of Labour leadership turmoil and the renewed threat of the Conservatives might mean for the mortgage market.We have seen swap rates increase over the last few weeks and the political uncertainty which we now face will, by historical precedent, add to the upward pressure on rates. Woolwich has recently said it will be some time before we see competitive fixed rates. The markets are thinking ahead of the public because the real threat of upward pressure on interest rates is hardening all the time. We are also seeing a number of external economic factors, not least of which is the forecast mid-term weakness of the dollar combined with the bad debt problems hitting the Chinese economy. It is likely that we will see sustained upward pressure on rates but with a flattening off of the longer-term yield curve as the long end remains held down, in the UK at least, by the overwhelming demand for gilts from our colleagues in the pension industry. I strongly believe that in times of increased economic volatility, fixed rates remain the optimum choice for borrowers. Perhaps of more interest was the impact on home information packs. The Tories have declared that they would abolish Hips so the real threat of a Tory Government in the medium-term future would mean that the uncertainty surrounding Hips will increase. Hips are a Blair initiative, so the longer that he remains as leader, the more likely that we will continue to run with the prospect of Hips. However, if the Conservatives threaten to abolish Hips and this has traction with the public, creating problems with their implementation, then it is likely that a new leader might well capitulate. For those investing a lot of money in pursuit of the Hips’ package, I would suggest that you hedge your bets by placing a bet on whether Blair leaves office before or after the Hips’ implementation date next July.