The housebuilding target was unrealistic – the question is what Michael Gove would put in its place

The housing secretary tried to cover his retreat from the promise of 300,000 new homes a year by distracting us, writes John Rentoul

Wednesday 11 May 2022 18:01 BST
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<p>The actual retreat from the manifesto was executed with a poetic touch</p>

The actual retreat from the manifesto was executed with a poetic touch

Michael Gove seems to be trying to distract attention from the breaking of a manifesto promise by putting on a bit of a show. This morning, he gave a cheerful TV interview in which he did a range of voices, putting on a mock-serious tone to discuss a rumoured “emergency Budget” over which journalists, he said, were excited because it would be a “capital letters Big News Story”, talk of which the Treasury had “rightly” responded to by saying “calm down” – for some reason, as Gove had it, in a Liverpool accent.

Even as he confirmed in another interview that the government was unlikely to meet its target of building 300,000 homes per year by 2025, he sought to cover his embarrassment by saying he didn’t want us to be “tied to a Procrustean bed” – a reference that had Radio 4 listeners googling the Greek god who stretched (or amputated parts of) his guests so that they would fit into his iron bed.

The actual retreat from the manifesto was executed with a poetic touch: “Arithmetic is important; so is beauty; so is belonging; so is democracy.” In the background, there was the gentle whooshing noise of another target being missed. There have been many of those since the Tony Blair government last fulfilled its quota of 200,000 new homes a year in 2006.

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