Fact or Fiction: Kris Hopkins
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Apart from the fact that he’s a big help to buy fan, you’d be forgiven for knowing little else about our latest housing minister. But that’s about to change with this month’s Fact or Fiction. Trouble is there’s a spanner in the works. Can you spot the lie?
1 With friends like these
The deeply silly Nadine Dorries – who can’t seem to go five minutes without becoming embroiled in some sort of embarrassing fiasco – was one of the first to congratulate Hopkins on his ascension to the housing minister role, tweeting: “Very sad to see Kris Hopkins promoted. One of parliament’s slimiest, nastiest MPs. Really. Awful. Decision.” The minister was no doubt delighted with the warm message from his fellow Tory MP yet declined to respond. Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, did rally to Hopkins cause, tweeting to Dorries: “That’s not the @khopkinsmp that I recognise.” The source of Dorries’ animosity remains unclear but sometimes it does seem as if she hates everyone in her party.
2 Party animal
Hopkins likes to keep himself busy. According to his website, he is a “feverishly active” walker and runner and an “able” photographer. However, he appears to be neither active nor able when it comes to his own webpage: it was last updated in 2010. Of greater interest is the former Bradford City Council leader’s hand in the creation of the 301 group – a tribe of Tory MPs that has set itself the task of ensuring the party wins enough seats in 2015’s general election to secure a majority government. Good luck with that.
3 Minister for confusion
Appointed the new housing minister in October, you can perhaps forgive Hopkins for not being fully across his brief during a Commons Q&A at the end of November but surely even someone with absolutely no interest in housing could probably guess that the new homes bonus scheme is about encouraging the development of new homes. Responding to David Lammy’s suggestion that the scheme had been a bit of a flop, Hopkins somewhat bizarrely replied: “I’m afraid the new homes bonus is not about encouraging people to build homes.” Emma Reynolds, Labour’s new shadow housing minister, immediately pointed to his predecessor’s claim that the scheme would help to provide an additional 400,000 new homes as proof that building new homes is exactly what it’s about.
4 Tour de Pissoir
Forget housing, Hopkins was obviously dealing with far more important matters at this time. He had just learned that Bradford Council was planning to close public toilets in the village of Haworth. Claiming the move was “short-sighted” and “politically motivated”, Hopkins was particularly peeved because: “Tourist numbers are set to multiply many times when the Tour de France comes to the village”. The phrase ‘who gives a s**t?’ comes to mind.
5 Soldier, soldier
Before becoming an MP, Hopkins was a member of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment serving in Kenya, Northern Ireland and Germany. He has spoken eloquently on the nature of conflict on a number of occasions in the Commons, insisting “there is nothing glorious or romantic about war”. He recalled: “During my basic training in the Army, I realised that a sergeant shouting at me to stab and scream and stab again a bale of hay with a fixed bayonet was teaching me how to rip somebody apart.” He added: “To those in the media who have portrayed what is happening now – or what has happened in previous wars – as some form of entertainment, I say that is just not right.”
6 Gone to the dogs
Hopkins was elected MP for Keighley and Ilkley in 2010, after failed attempts in Halifax and Leeds West. However, though no doubt jubilant there was one episode during his ultimately successful election campaign that he would probably like to forget. Out canvassing in a remote rural area of the constituency, Hopkins suddenly found himself surrounded by a pack of “vicious looking” dogs. Alone, terrified and without a bayonet for protection, his running skills came in handy as he pelted down a lane back to his car, the hounds literally snapping at his ankles. It later transpired that the beasts belonged to none other than TV’s Les Dennis.
This article orginally appeared in the January issue of 24housing magazine.