Thanks to an astonishing laspe in security at the communities department, Chris Addison has obtained a first draft of a mailout from housing minister Caroline Flint, in which her inner thoughts are exposed
A friend of mine works for the government, for his sins (although to be fair, his main sin is working for the government), and came across the first draft of the following mailout in a bin in the communities department: Hi! Caroline Flint here! Well, what a whirlwind half-handful of days it’s been since I became minister for housing. I’ve certainly been very busy making announcements and decisions. Some people have said to me, “Hey! Caroline Flint! Don’t you think it’d be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the complicated and sensitive brief you’ve been handed so that you don’t make rash or overly politically motivated decisions whose adverse effects could be felt for decades to come?”
This is a valid point, and that is exactly why I’ve asked my secretary to send me a text every two minutes so that I can have a pretext to run off somewhere urgent if anybody makes it to me.
I’m a doer, not a thinker. (“Don’t dream it, be it” – that’s my motto. I think it’s from Socrates, but on the other hand it might be The Rocky Horror Show. I always get those two mixed up. They’re basically both about men in frocks, aren’t they?) And I’ve certainly spent most of my time doing and not thinking since Gordon gave me my role. When I’ve not been telling people who live in council houses to get a job in the kind of speech that would make Norman Tebbit turn to his neighbour and whisper “Ooh hey, come on now, that’s a bit much,” I’ve been getting Middle England het up by making them think that I’m about to let Consolidated Robber Barons Inc tarmac over their favourite badger-watching spot in the name of eco-towns.
So, if you’re someone who’s confused or upset by these eco-town proposals, or just one of the many other groups of people that we in politics would rather not talk to in person, here is a special FAQ put together by me – Caroline Flint! – to help you.
Hey! Caroline Flint! What exactly are eco-towns? Good question. It’s quite simple. Imagine a Venn diagram of two sets, one which represents all things “eco” and one which represents all things “towns”. Everything that falls into the “n” intersection of this diagram (everything that is both “eco” and “town”) is an eco-town.
Yes but, Caroline Flint!, what actually are they? That depends. They vary according to the specific proposal, apparently. Some are 30-year-old plans for brutalist dormitory gulags on which the developers have drawn the recycling symbol a couple of times and been careful to say “renewable resources” in every third paragraph, whereas others envisage entire populations living in bivouacs on a hillside and recycling their own sewage into cooking bricks. At least, that’s what one of my advisers told me, but he had this funny look in his eye and his voice was oddly high.
Is it really possible, Caroline Flint!, to build carbon-neutral housing? Oh, definitely. I saw it on Grand Designs once. I’m not sure exactly how they do it, but I Sky Plus-ed the last half of the programme, so I’m pretty confident I can be up to speed on it by the time anyone asks any questions in Cabinet. I mean, I do remember that the wife who was project managing it nearly had a breakdown and that Kevin McCloud kept wondering if the building was ever going to be finished and then walking out of shot, but I’m pretty certain that I can learn from her mistakes and since we’re making whole towns, I’m hoping we’ll get a discount for bulk.
Sounds great, Caroline Flint! What kind of radical new housing ideas can we expect? Well, to be honest, I’m not quite across all the details yet, but I was shown a promotional video of a sort of grassy dome in some fields with all these rabbits and flowers nearby. There was this big shower head thing that kept poking out of the ground and telling people what to do, which I thought was a nicely New Labour touch. Ideally this housing is designed to accommodate four people: One purple one, one green one, one yellow one and a red one. So not only is it eco-friendly, it’s multicultural, too. Electoral boxes ticked, I think. Of course, it won’t all be grassy domes. There have been some fantastic eco-homes in the King’s Cross area where people have been living for some time in housing made from old cardboard boxes. I asked my adviser what PPP was behind this but his voice went all high again and he started twitching and muttering something about council tenants without jobs.
Well, that’s about all I know so far, but as soon as I’ve learned more I’ll either write a new FAQ or, more likely, get moved to health.
Chris Addison is a writer, actor and comedian