Housing is critical in many ways: meeting a crying social need, providing a powerful economic stimulus and the housing market as a threat to the financial system. The last could spill over into a housing crash (at the time of the next general election?) and a sharp contraction in banks' ability to lend.
One of the best speeches given by a Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member in the last year was Danny Alexander’s to the GMB conference. It was not only a good speech, it went down well with a tough audience that disagrees strongly with many things the government is doing.
As I wrote at the time:
There is a touch of irony about that as the speech came from someone who has attracted rather a reputation amongst some party members for sounding much too keen much too often on Conservative policies in media interviews. This was instead the Danny Alexander who won plaudits from across the Liberal Democrats during his time chairing the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) for successfully bringing together rather than driving apart different outlooks.
What then to expect from his next big speech, to the Liberal Democrat conference in the autumn? So far, his conference speeches have gone down pretty well, particularly for their tough line on tax evasion and avoidance (an approach that is paying dividends).
This time there is likely to be an extra twist, as the Financial Times reports:
At next month’s gathering of his party Mr Alexander will make an outspoken criticism of the Tories for blocking green policies and trying to make changes to employment law “without clear, robust evidence”, according to a policy paper seen by the Financial Times…
Mr Alexander will say he is concerned by issues such as the lack of competition in the banking sector and the failure of “successive governments” to sort out the housing crisis.
The reference to housing is an intriguing one as it would mean Danny Alexander joining the ranks of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in seriously upping the rhetoric over housing. To recap what I said when they did this:
The level of importance that senior figures such as Clegg and Cable are giving to housing is unprecedented in the party’s history. The real test, however, comes from counting the number of homes that get built.
Talk of major housing policy announcements pre-August have come to nothing. A lot now therefore rests on there being substantive and major announcements in the autumn.