“The Tories' complete annihilation of buy-to-let as a form of investment – unexpected, unwelcome, unreasoned – is a play to the politics of envy.
“Private landlords are deeply unpopular. Caricatured as exploitative and greedy, they've become the arch-villain in Britain's broken housing market, the biggest obstruction to younger people who want to become home owners.
“Landlords force tenants to pay extortionate rents, goes the argument, while driving house prices ever further out of their reach.
“These investors are parasites, enriched and engorged with the cash of the young and poor. And they are abetted by vastly generous tax breaks. Or so it is said.
“The Telegraph, almost entirely alone, has questioned the Tories' attack on buy-to-let ever since George Osborne announced the withdrawal of mortgage interest relief for private property investors in July.
“Every article we have published since, especially where we feature individual landlords who make their case, has resulted in a flood of abuse on social media and elsewhere.
“Interestingly, the rage and spite are directed only at private landlords – at the middle class, ordinarily well-off families who have decided to buy a second property to let as part of their pension planning, or because they want eventually to give it to their child.
“The bile is also directed at landlords who make small, full-time businesses out of running a portfolio of properties (oftern in areas where there is high tenant demand but little demand from owner-occupiers).
“But the most telling point is that there is no such vilification of corporate buy-to-let.
“Big institutional investors, such as insurance firms, asset managers or pension funds, that want to go into buy-to-let on an industrial scale don't attract any criticism whatsoever. Nor have they been hit by any of the Tory policies.
“These industrial-scale buy-to-let investors will continue to enjoy full tax relief on mortgage interest, long after it has been withdrawn from individual, middle-class investors. And industrial-scale buy-to-let will also be exempt from the huge rise in stamp duty announced in the Autumn Statement and effective from April 1 2016.
“The truth is that the people who most condemn buy-to-let tend to be those who wish they had done it themselves.
“They would still do it if they could afford to, and if the Tories hadn't killed it.
“It is about envy.
“It's not in human nature to envy a faceless, gigantic insurance company that owns 6,000 flats. But it is human nature to envy the couple next door who also own two buy-to-lets further down the street.
“That's why, when people attack private landlords (or, arguably, any group of wealthy individuals), they do so with such visceral emotion.
“Browse buy-to-let articles on the internet and see for yourself. The rage, the glee, the torrents of vindictive spite – what else but envy could provoke all that?
“In a peculiar twist, the Tories are now playing towards this angry crowd. Mr Osborne will raise billions of pounds in additional revenue from a group whose striking unpopularity is motivated in the large part by envy of wealth and success.
“One irony in this situation is that so many Tory MPs are themselves landlords. Another is that so many private landlords are Conservative voters.
“But the biggest irony of all is that property investors were terrified, ahead of the general election, at what a Labour victory might mean for their businesses.
“Could Labour – in whatever guise – have delivered any more devastating an attack on their interests?”