Kiss some frogs

Becoming a Minister is a funny business. You have to forget everything you have ever previously said on the topic you take responsibility for and become the mouthpiece of the Government.  You then have to parrot all the stuff that has previously been said by your predecessors, even if it means defending policies with which you have previously disagreed.

For the LibDens in coalition with the Tories this must be an excruciating business.  Some of those who have been sacked from Government have revealed exactly how awful the Government is looking from the inside, notably Sarah Teather’s denunciation of the Government’s deliberate strategy to demonise benefit recipients.

Poor old Don Foster is the latest to make the transition onto the dark side, picking up the housing junior brief from dumped fellow LibDem Andrew Stunnell in the last reshuffle. It is now poor Don’s turn, as a previously decent human being, to defend the increasingly indefensible record of the Coalition on housing and homelessness.

But I was still surprised when Foster had the opportunity of an article in the Telegraph that he chose to go for an old favourite: red tape.  This is normally the last refuge of people who have nothing of any importance to say on anything serious.  Evidently he has been entrusted with slashing the Building Regulations and he is, he says, going about it with zeal. He was ‘shocked to find out about the layers of additional standards and red tape, slapped on top of each other by the last government’ as if the regs were only invented in 1997.  But he cites an alarming precedent for the approach he is going to take: ‘Just as this government turned over 1,300 pages of technical planning rules into a 50 page, sensible and intelligible framework I’m determined to do the same with buildings standards.’  And he believes he can do this without compromising safety.

Well, we’ll wait and see but, as the Government’s planning policy unravels before our eyes, it would be bad news to see building regs reduced to 50 meaningless and contradictory pages like planning guidance was.  And it is serious stuff: detailed rules on fire safety, electrical and gas safety, contaminants, insulation, ventilation, hygiene, drainage and refuse disposal are not to sneezed at.  Areas where a bit of red tape is justified by appalling practice in the past.

On New Years Day I was ruminating on how hard it would be for Labour to enter a coalition with the LibDems after the next Election given how hostile some LibDems have been to Labour over the last 2 years.  One friend said that if Labour didn’t win outright ‘it would have to kiss a lot of frogs’ to form a Government.  I hadn’t quite seen the likes of Don Foster like that before.  However, it appears that there are two very different forms of the fairytale.

In one version (Wikipedia says the ‘Americanised’ version) the frog is indeed turned into a charming Prince by a kiss.  However, the original Grimm Brothers story has the frog’s spell being broken when the princess throws it against a wall in disgust.  Speaking personally, when I watch some of the LibDems in Government, I prefer the latter option.

Happy New Year!

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2 Responses to Kiss some frogs

  1. Kevin Allen says:

    The Private Rented Sector is characterised by lack of effective regulation rather than too much and any initiative like the Red Tape Challenge which appears to aim to remove regulations because less regulation is better! misses the whole point of having essential regulations to deal with real world problems. The Lofstedt report ‘Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation’, November 2011, which appears to be used as justification for compromising health and safety is flawed in it’s analysis and even contains factual errors. Tenants are protected from potentially lethal gas hazards (through annual testing) but it is beyond belief that there is no requirement for periodic testing of electrical appliances and wiring (many potentially fatal faults are invisible to all but qualified electricians). Local authorities do not have the resources to inspect all private rented sector stock and tenants are deterred from making complaints because of the fear of eviction due to insecure tenancies. How can tenants be kept safe if there is not legal requirement for anyone to test electrics in all private rented homes! If you want to know what has happended when electrical safety has been compromised please read

  2. O dear, just as the National Private Tenants Organisation has launched its Campaign for action on electrical safety in the private rented sector. According to the Electrical Safety Council electricity kills at least one person every week in the home and almost 1,000 are seriously injured every day – private tenants are disproporionately affected by electrical accidents. I suppose frogs don’t care a lot about that. Do support this campaign NPTO will clearly need all the help it can get.

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