Met the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Met the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

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Michael Gove, MP for Surrey Heath, will become the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and will also take on cross-government responsibility for levelling up. Gove, who was born in Aberdeen, also has overall responsibility for the Union and elections. 

He is seen as a man who can get a difficult job done and will focus on the levelling-up agenda, tackling the housing crisis and pushing through planning reforms. Gove is renowned for being a reforming Cabinet Minister who has enacted changes in whatever Government department he has presided over. It therefore appears that we can expect some significant reforms of the Government’s Planning and Housing policy. 

A former Times journalist, he is a controversial figure because of reforms he implemented as a Cabinet Minister in David Cameron’s governments.

He has served in a variety of roles, including education secretary, environment secretary and justice secretary. He has some experience of housing, having been shadow housing minister between 2005 and 2007.

Mr Gove is a champion of local authorities and their communities, and his appointment has been welcomed by the County Councils Network and the Local Government Association.

Background

Mr Gove was appointed Education Secretary in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in May 2010, and shadowed the Children, Schools and Families since 2007. As the Secretary of State charged with implementing the Government’s radical plans for reforming the education system, Mr Gove became one of David Cameron’s more trusted confidantes. 

In July 2014 he was moved from Education to become the Government Chief Whip. It was also announced that he would take on a new broadcast role as lead government spokesman. Following the 2015 General Election he was promoted to Justice Secretary.

Mr Gove was sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2016. In October 2016, he was elected to sit on the new Exiting the European Union Select Committee. In February 2016, he came out as being in favour of Britain leaving the EU. 

He briefly supported Boris Johnson for the Conservative leadership after the EU Referendum, before changing his mind and throwing his own hat into the ring. He was eliminated from the contest in the second-round ballot.

As Education Secretary from 2010 to 2014, Mr Gove embarked on an ambitious programme of reform to convert schools to academies and foster the development of free schools, as well as overhauling the National Curriculum to increase its rigour and international competitiveness.

In contrast to his predecessor Robert Jenrick (who represented Newark in Nottinghamshire), Gove represents a Home Counties seat with significant issues around Green Belt development. Gove has represented Surrey Heath since 2005. The constituency covers the towns of Camberley, Frimley and Ash along with several villages. Although the constituency remains solidly Conservative (Gove had a majority of over 18,000 at the 2019 General Election), the Conservative local government base on Surrey Heath Borough Council has declined in recent elections with a number of Liberal Democrats, Green and anti-development Independents elected. For this reason, Gove will undoubtedly be nervous about Green Belt release. Indeed, Gove’s own website states that he has “campaigned on green issues for two decades” and mentions that he “will fight any incursion into our Green Belt.” Gove also vows to “oppose the planned development of Fairoaks Airport” in the constituency. 

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