Grant Shapps – the Good, the Bad and the Wikipedia Entries
Published by Phil Morgan on Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 11:54 am
The revelation that Grant Shapps signed off the demolition of Ringo Starr’s home, a demolition that he had opposed, brings to an end a mixed history as housing minister.
Now that Shapps has moved off to slap Boris back into line and admit defeat on boundary changes it may be worth looking back at his tenure as Housing Minister and his legacy.
And it hasn’t been all bad. Shapps deserves credit in two areas: recognising that increases in housing prices couldn’t be sustained and that the political consensus that had been in place since David Curry was housing minister and effectively taken over by Nick Raynsford needed revisiting. The first was a rare act of political bravery.
Credit must also be given to his length of tenure compared to the shambolic swapping around of Labour housing ministers on an annual basis and the sheer energy he brought to the role. How many housing ministers have stayed up to 3am glad-handing housing professionals? He has effortlessly seen off two Labour shadows and defined himself both as a thoroughly modern housing minister and one that, as I stated recently, was the commanding figure in social housing.
But much has been bad. The dismissal of the regulator and National Tenant Voice were all about notching marks on Shapps’ political headboard. The Affordable Rents model was written on the back of a fag packet and will exacerbate the issues around welfare reform.
Shapps has rarely listened to anyone outside his own circle, dismissing industry and civil service voices with equal distain. And the ceaseless hunt for advancement has meant that easy points were scored on Right to Buy, selling off expensive homes and Ringo Starr’s charmless house when a more considered approach might have been more productive in the long run.
And the failure to have that more considered approach has meant that much more glee has been shown when embarrassment has been found such as bombing Luftwaffe style Ringo Starr’s home into dust. The issues around sock puppetry showed an inflated ego further exposed by rewriting his own Wikipedia to ‘correct’ his own school performance, remove information about donors and sock puppetry, and write his own glowing reference on his work with the homeless.
His attempt to rewrite CIH speeches resulted in a rare putting straight session by the sorely missed Sarah Webb. Add in the recent revelations about his family business and ‘Michael Green’ and you have a politician defined by his image rather than his substance.
As 24housing editor Jon Land recently outlined, Shapps failed comprehensively to set out a credible housing strategy. Instead his legacy will be a series of populist self-promoting initiatives rather than a coherent approach to housing. His current more demanding role will expose him, as one commentator recently said, as either ”John Major or John Moore.”
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