Back on the merry-go-round

I have been here before. But how or when, I cannot tell.

What have the following got in common with each other? Alok Sharma, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Kris Hopkins, Margaret Beckett, Gavin Barwell, Mark Prisk, Caroline Flint, John Healey and Charles Falconer?

All of them have, at some point in the last 22 years, had the title Housing Minister on their business cards. And all of them lasted in that job less than 12 months.

Here’s another one: what do the following have in common? Nick Raynsford, Yvette Cooper, Grant Shapps and Brandon Lewis? They have been the only people in the last 22 years to have hung onto their Housing Minister business cards for two years or more.

The other four people to have sat in that hottest of hot seats for one year – Kit Malthouse, 13 months – Jeff Rooker and 23months – Keith Hill. No, I don’t remember anything about those last two either.

This list tells you everything you need to know to understand just how committed this government – and, indeed, the ones that went before it – is to the housing sector.

Housing, despite ministerial protestations to the contrary, is viewed as a lesser area of importance in government. It’s a government job, sure, but it’s no foreign policy or public finance. Thus, it is viewed as an ideal place for up-and-coming politicians and wannabe members of the Cabinet to audition for jobs of higher rank and prestige.

It was certainly the case with Grant Shapps – now Transport, Alok Sharma, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Dominic Raab – Health. Didn’t work quite so well for Esther McVey, though, who worked her way through stints looking after disability, work and pensions, employment and as a deputy chief whip before being unceremoniously dumped in the latest Cabinet reshuffle.

It certainly worked for Sajid Javid, who although not housing minister was in charge of housing in his role of Secretary of State Housing, Communities and Local Government and appeared at the BMF’s first Parliamentary Reception to mark its 110th anniversary. He then went on to occupy not one, but two of the great offices of state – Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer… Oh, wait a minute.

Christopher Pincher must be hoping that he is going to be more like Sharma and less like McVey. I’d just like him to be in-situ long enough to actually achieve something.




About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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