If you want to know what ministers are planning, it might be best to consult the planning minister, who presently takes the form of Nick Boles. The 49-year-old made headlines late last year when he shared some ‘controversial’ thoughts on where Britain should be building its future homes. But what do we really know of the man? Here are ‘six’ facts but which one has been constructed without consent?
1 Tanks for that
Policy Exchange, the right-wing think tank beloved by David Cameron, was brought into the world by Boles and his mates, Michael Gove and Francis Maude, all of whom now have plum roles in the Coalition. Boles left the organisation in 2007 to avoid a conflict of interest with his plans to become a Tory MP. Last year, whilst opining that councils should sell off their most expensive social housing, PE cited a Camden Council home as “Britain’s most expensive” – a property that turned out to be under a covenant that prevented it from being sold. Then again, who cares about the odd piece of shoddy research? Facts are irrelevant when you’re helping the Government to cleanse central London of poor people.
2 Talk ain’t cheap
Boles got hitched to his partner, Shay Meshulam, in April 2011 – a laudable example of the Tory Party’s modernistic attitude. But, being a politician, the milk soon turned sour when it was revealed that Boles had claimed £678 in parliamentary expenses for Hebrew lessons, his partner’s mother tongue. After he was rumbled, the man who once called for an end to free public transport and of the winter fuel allowance for ‘wealthy’ OAPs chimed: “I took some Hebrew lessons. It is something I’m entitled to do. I’ve done it and that’s that.”
3 This charming man
Boles put himself firmly in the crosshairs of the NIMBYs last year when he called for “two to three percent of England’s open land” to be developed with up to two million new homes. The Campaign to Protect Rural England predictably went bananas over the idea, calling Boles “provocative and unnecessary”. In the same speech, the minister called a housing estate in Purfleet “pig-ugly”, to which some of its offended residents might have replied “look who’s talking”.
4 Captain Cuts
Last July, Boles found yet more things for the Government to stop spending money on. Talking to the BBC’s Newsnight, he urged further cuts to the £22bn housing benefit bill, saying: “I challenge anyone to show that this is the most cost-effective way to help people into work or to tackle our generational failure to provide enough affordable homes for our growing population.” In the same interview he rounded on the “lazy sentimentalism” of Sure Start centres and questioned further government investment. It’s good to see the future prospects of thousands of young children are safe in his hands.
5 Forward planning?
Soon after he became planning minister last summer, Boles found himself defending comments he made two years before, when he said that he “didn’t even believe in planning”. In December 2010, Boles said: “Do you believe planning works? That clever people sitting in a room can plan how people’s communities should develop? I believe it can’t work, David Cameron believes it can’t, Nick Clegg believes it can’t.” Confronted with his remarks following his appointment, Boles claimed that, as a newly elected MP, he was a bit like a young child and was just being an attention-seeker. And then they let him run part of the country. Just what we need after Grant Shapps…
6 Humble pie
Shortly after finishing university, a young Boles set up a pie manufacturing company in Telford with financial backing from his father’s childhood friend, rock star Francis Rossi. The firm blossomed in its first two years, with Sainsbury’s and ASDA both agreeing to stock Boles’ savoury delights, until it was revealed the factory didn’t have planning permission. The company abruptly folded and Rossi rubbed salt into the pastry by declaring that Boles’ pies were “inedible and grotesque” during a Status Quo
gig in Brazil.
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ANSWER: Number 6. Boles did once set up a DIY supply business, but it had little or nothing to do with Francis Rossi.