Kit Malthouse MP, the recently appointed Housing Minister – replacing the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb – comes with a considerable range of achievements behind him. He takes on the role after a considerable period of churn for this ministerial post, with an average of one minister per year over the last eight years. But, who is he exactly? And where does he want to take housing and planning policy in the United Kingdom?
Brought up in Liverpool, Malthouse studied Politics and Economics at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. As a man who knows numbers, balance sheets and accounts, this led him to become a chartered accountant – getting his certification in 2004. For sure, Malthouse can boast he can navigate a strategic business setting.
Malthouse is overtly evidently ambitious. As an early expression of this, in 1997 he took on the brave cause of standing in Liverpool Braintree during the electoral tsunami of New Labour under Tony Blair; to date his ambition and drive has paid off. But then Westminster politics beckoned soon after, at least at a local government level. In 1998 Malthouse was elected to Westminster City Council, a path which then led him to election on the London Assembly in 2008, as the Member for West Central. His Assembly constituency was a very varied mix in both political and demographic terms, spanning the Boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, the City of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.
Whilst on Westminster Council his ambitions were swiftly accommodated, with appointment to key posts; including Chief Whip for the Conservative Group, Chairman of the Social Services Committee and election as Deputy Leader of the Council. His time on the Council included negotiating the widely-reported settlement with Dame Shirley Porter over the notorious gerrymandering ‘homes for votes’ scandal sale of council housing in the 1980s. Malthouse is a skilled negotiator.
On election to the London Assembly, Malthouse was appointed by Boris Johnson to the role of Deputy Mayor for Policing. His tenure in this post included some bumpy rides, not least the resignation of Sir Ian Blair as Met Commissioner. Following this in 2012, Malthouse was Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, until his election to the House of Commons in 2015, succeeding Sir George Young in the safe Conservative seat of North West Hampshire.
Political experience at almost every relevant level is a strong suit for Malthouse. However, his experience on housing issues is not as well established. There may well be some learning on the job to be done; but his versatility and adaptability is well-evidenced throughout his career to date.
His brief is a tough one, especially given the burgeoning housing crisis. Last month’s review from Sir Oliver Letwin will also stalk him and his ministerial brief. Throw into the mix Brexit’s uncertainty with an understandably twitchy house-building industry concerned with the impact of leaving the European Union, as well as the uneasy negotiation process. The new Housing Minister will have to grapple with the pressing infrastructure pressures surrounding the entire policy area under his brief. There are many moving parts for him to deal with here.
Given his career to date, we can probably bank on Kit Malthouse keeping a cool head, coupled with a business-like strategic approach coupled with political shrewdness. Concrete policies are, of course, yet to be built.