So Chris Philp didn’t miss out in the Prime Minister’s Government reshuffle at the start of the week after all.
The Croydon South Tory MP got what amounts to a demotion.
Thus Theresa May has managed to create a situation where the Parliamentary Private Secretary to her minister in charge of housing is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who refuses to publish his tax returns and who remains a director of companies which annually invests millions in… speculative housing schemes.
The dust had long settled on May’s reshuffle, roundly dimissed as a piece of Barwellian fudge and blunder by most political columnists, when on Thursday it emerged, almost like an afterthought, that Philp was to be shunted from the post of PPS to Treasury ministers, where he had been an aide to Chancellor Philip Hammond only since last summer, and instead he was to take up the less prestigious bag-carrier job at housing, for Sajid Javid.
Croydon’s Tories greeted the news by stating that this would be “a vital role helping the Government in its mission to build the homes we so desperately need”.
The Tories, as ever, were blithely ignoring the inherent hypocrisy in their statement.
Philp had spent much time this month at a planning inspectorate hearing, being vigorously cross-examined by a QC over the MP’s fervent opposition to the building of 220 flats in his own constituency at Purley Cross. Oh well…
Philp’s move to be Javid’s PPS means that two of Croydon’s MPs now hold similar roles related to housing, since Croydon Central’s Sarah Jones was announced in the week as PPS to John Healey, Labour’s housing shadow.
As the co-founder and partner of Pluto Finance, Philp has had a great deal of experience when it comes to housing developments. His business provides multi-million-pound loans to the companies that build housing. Pluto has been involved with developments across the capital, and has even provided finance for a get-rich-quick office-to-residential scheme in Croydon.
One consistent aspect of Philp’s statements as an elected representative, and from the time before he was elected to Westminster in 2015, has been his tendency to oppose social housing. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Philp’s position tends to be shaped by his desire to maximise profits for him, his companies and companies like them.
Sort of for the few, not the many.
Put Philp’s default position on housing alongside the comments of his new boss this week, and you have an immediate, glaring, conflict. “So many politicians, whether they’re working in Westminster or they’re local politicians making local planning decisions, they haven’t grasped that rightly people want a decent place to live or to rent at a decent cost,” Javid said in an interview on LBC this week.
The government inspector looking into the development at Purley – what Philp exaggerated by describing as a “skyscraper” – has now finished his hearings and is expected to submit his report and recommendations shortly.
The minister whose desk that report will land on will be Sajid Javid.
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