On Tuesday, I was chairing a mini-conference with about 40 people in the audience from London based RSLs, London boroughs and private developers. I did a similar one back in January on the theme of the new housing system, both of these under the Future of London banner.
It’s led me into greater fascination with CLG ministers’ current decision making. At none of these conferences has anyone spoken in favour of the government’s reforms.
Admittedly, the representatives of the HCA have explained well the government’s policies and the government’s thinking behind them. But even Policy Exchange would only go as far as to say they were ‘critical friends’ of the government on housing.
Normally, making policy means alienating some people but pleasing others. Opposition is always inevitable and it’s true that normally opposition to any change outweighs the supporters. As Machiavelli says:
“… there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”
What amazes me is why ministers are not at all concerned by the fact they have no defenders at all, not even lukewarm ones. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the nature and implementation of these reforms, there is no tempering of the tone, no recognition that these are unpopular and that an entire sector thinks they probably won’t work.
Is this simply ideological zeal? The department not advising them of the reactions out there, or being too scared to do so? Is it the hope or assumption of creative destruction – if you lay waste to the old system, it’s impossible to go back and so something else better must emerge?
Or am I just niave and captured by me sector? Could this be how real political change happens and from the ground it always looks like destruction?
Alternatively, the housing minister could just believe he’ll only there for a short time and will have got away from the scene of the crime before anyone spots the bodies. While I fear for the NHS, I secretly hope the Housing Minister gets promoted to Health, to reap for himself the ‘rewards’ of another set of radical reforms.