How not to launch a policy

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Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have a particular interest in land value taxation, and housing and land reform more generally. I’m little more than an enthusiastic amateur however at the end of the day, and will happily admit to gaps in my knowledge. I have to admit for example that I didn’t know that the party had policy on Community Land Auctions for instance, least of all how they work.

Now I’ve had them explained to me, privately, via Jock Coats and via Tim Leunig’s CentreForum pamphlet on the subject, I think the idea sounds very interesting. It’s a way of attempting to square the circle whereby local authorities are wary of allowing urban sprawl and landowners are wary of selling their land cheap. The ideal solution gives them both an interest, and Community Land Auctions do appear to do this. The fact that vested interests such as the Country Land and Business Association don’t like it should surprise no-one. The fact that Tories rush to the defence of landowners should surprise people with any historical knowledge even less.

So far, so good. The problem is, the party’s press launch today of the policy left anyone attempting to defend the policy completely naked. Aside from poorly (wrongly even) explaining the actual policy, the press release that went out does nothing to inform the reader that it is existing policy or point to where it is explained in more detail. Even now the full speech still hasn’t been published anywhere online. Someone like me should have spent a part of Thursday defending the policy against all-comers. Instead, I was left straggling. At least I didn’t leap to the wrong conclusion and start slagging it off, but still.

In a nutshell, if the party’s press team isn’t prepared to do the spadework in preparation for a policy launch, it shouldn’t bother. We can’t complain about the quality of our press coverage, and then leave the party leader stranded out there in the way that he was. If you look at the CentreForum link above, you will find favourable quotes from Kate Barker, an Oxford economics professor, a Conservative Peer (for fuck’s sake) and the Town and Country Planning Association. Not one of these was mentioned in the press release. If the press monkeys can’t even be bothered to do that level of research, we might as well all give up and go home now.

3 thoughts on “How not to launch a policy

  1. Among those who have spoken favourably about Commumity Land Auctions is Michael Gove, Conservative Housing spokesperson, who was actually at the launch of the pamphlet you refer to.

    For whatever reason the policy has come across as a form of compulsory purchase and council-housebuilding rather than as an amendment to the land-use planning process which already takes place – but one which uses a market mechanism to guide the process instead of the current smoke and mirrors. It’s also not come across that landowners can choose whether or not to put their into the process – the land wouldn’t be expropriated against their will. It is also important that any proceeds are seen as going to the community, not to “the council.”

  2. Indeed. It is notable at how the debate on Iain Dale’s website has markedly changed in tone as Tim Leunig has explained the policy, from outright ‘typical Lib Dems’ hostility to ‘er, actually this sounds quite good’.

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