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Soft-shoe (re)shuffle

“Healey’s First Law Of Holes: When in one, stop digging”


If that’s what she calls a re-shuffle then Teresa May really needs to work on her card-handling skills.

Trumpeted (although, to be fair, not by the Prime Minster herself so much as the media around her) as the re-shuffle that would shake up the Cabinet and re-assert her authority over the Conservative party, yesterday’s comings-and-goings in Downing Street showed a) the weakness in Mrs May’s grip and b) the continuing lack of real commitment to the housing sector.

Those who were expected to stay went, those who were expected to go didn’t. Justine Greening’s tenure as Education Secretary is over, possibly because of the rescinding of the 2017 election manifesto policy to increase the number of grammar schools upset the more traditional Tories. Under her reign, relationships between Government and teachers had improved markedly from their nadir under Michael Gove. She’s been replaced by the grammar school-alumni Damian Hinds. You do the math.

Over at Health and Business, the expected changes didn’t materialise. Like two desperate double-glazing salesmen, Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark sat in Mrs May’s office and refused to budge until she’d agreed to let them stay in their jobs.

At last September’s Members Day event, the BMF was rightly congratulating themselves for having persuaded the housing minister Alok Sharma to speak. He’s gone. In the last 10 years, the longest serving housing minister has been Grant Shapps. In the last 20 years, the housing minister has lasted just 16 months on average with Labour’s Yvette Cooper the longest serving. Thanks to the CPA’s Noble Francis for pointing out that fact, and also for this handy little graph illustrating it.

If you look at the jobs that previous incumbents have gone on to do, housing is clearly seen (on both sides of the House) as a stepping stone, with little chance of building long-term planning/policies. Brandon Lewis, for example, is now Conservative Party chairman. It’s safe to assume that the new incumbent, Dominic Raab has similar ambitions.

Of course, it could be argued that, with the expansion of Sajid Javid’s department to include housing, the Government is actually putting more weight behind the housing sector.

Now in charge of a department rebranded as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Javid will be referred to as the Housing Secretary, when pronouncing on housing issues. Of which he has, it has to be said, done more than his fair share of late. Since he was appointed to the role, Javid has been vocal on the need for tough regulation of landlords and has promised £50bn of funding to boost housing and reduce the shortages.

I rather suspect that this soft shuffle is just the beginning. Whether it’s the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning for May remains to be seen.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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