Anthony Barnett seems to think so. There is some merit to what he has to say, but my response can be found here. Longer term readers might recall me making similar points a couple of months ago. Anyone else want to have their say?
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.