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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Black

Should we have replaced Robert Jenrick with a Goat?

So-long Robert Edward Jenrick. Hello to the 'Disco King' Michael Andrew Gove. MP for Surrey Heath (a Local Authority with an out of date Local Plan and lack of a 5YHLS as I was reminded by Phil Scott of Obsidian just now in a text!)

In a cabinet reshuffle that was more severe than most were expecting we said cheerio to Robert Jenrick as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and welcome to Govey who will be the sixth holder of this title in the past decade. Jenrick was the second longest holder of this title at a grand total of 784 days in a line of illustrious previous kings of this particular castle.

(Uncle) Eric Pickles – 1825 days (1 day short of half a decade!)

Greg Clark – 430 days

Sajid Javid – 655 days

James Brokenshire – 450 days

Jenrick has not been short of controversies during his tenure with the most prominent being the approval of the Westferry Printworks Site site following allegations of lobbying by Richard Desmond at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner. Add to that his failure to call in the plans for Whitehaven Coal Mine, lack of progress on the planning bill amongst other things. Even his own house extension didn’t escape controversy. He was certainly a central plank of the party and more often rolled out to defend the prime minister when he’d cocked things up (pretty regularly then!).

And so here we go again with a new minister who will have to grapple with the massive mess that has become the response to the planning white paper. The emerging planning bill now looks as though it will be as watered down as a pint down the students union.

During lockdown a farm in Lancashire made £50,000 by hiring goats to lighten the mood on zoom meetings.

However it isn’t just zoom meetings that they can be hired for. Upon becoming prime minister in 2007, Gordon Brown promised that he would build a ‘government that uses all talents’ by appointing people from outside of parliament to be ministers. The ministers hired became known as ‘GOATS’ for ‘Government of All Talents. The Brown Government had ten such ministers from the Lords who were not MPs and were subsequently made ministers. The best known of which was Lord Digby Jones (former Director-General of the CBI) who became Minister of State in the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Although he only lasted just over a year in the post before being reshuffled out. Lord Adonis also held roles in Transport.

Jenrick’s reign is seemingly over in the blink of an eye. Certainly in the context of the glacial pace of strategic planning reform and progress of local plans. In a world when a local plan such as that of Tandridge can span the reign of three Secretary of States (who knows it might still be more??) surely we need the person in the hotseat to have greater longevity? Might there be a role for a longer term GOAT or perhaps a Tsar from outside of Government to steer (or at least be a strong first officer) the huge super tanker that the MHCLG ship has become? Maybe to become a figure of continuity amongst a seemingly revolving door or ministers?

So who would such a GOAT be? Well there is certainly no shortage of people who many of us would love to see in such a position. Step forward Simon Ricketts, Nicola Gooch, Catriona Riddell, Chris Young, Zack Simons to name just a few…......Not sure they'd be too keen though......

But something has to give doesn’t it? This constant merry-go-round that is, for many of us, the most important of all political appointments is just plain unhelpful for progress, certainty and direction.

Perhaps the best thing in all of this would be to take a leaf out of the Monster Raving Loony Party. They have a reshuffle once a year where everyone goes on a pub crawl and at the end all get into a cabinet then shuffle around a bit then all get out again with the same roles. You think I’m joking…….

At least you know where you stand. Physically AND Metaphorically.

AB - My own thoughts


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