Gove describes 300k Homes Manifesto target as ‘procrustian bed’

Mail describing Today Interview

In an interview with Mishal Husain on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme Mr Gove was pressed on whether he thought it was right he was ripping up the 300,000 homes target in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto that won Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.  

He said: ‘We’re going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places. Because I don’t want us to be tied to a Procrustean bed. I think it’s critically important that, even as we seek to improve housing supply, we also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of’.

Husain pointed out that this was a pledge. “Are you going to meet it?,” she asked. Gove replied:

Well, we’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.

Ultimately, when you’re building a new dwelling, you’re not simply trying to hit a statistical target. I’m certainly not.

When Husain pointed out that the Tories actually promised to hit a statistical target, Gove replied:

Well, it’s only one of a number of things that we need to do. We are not bound – I am not bound – by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important, but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy.

In Greek mythology

Procrustes, “the stretcher [who hammers out the metal]”), was a rogue smith and bandit attacked people by stretching them or cutting off their legs, so as to force them to fit the size of an iron bed.

The word “Procrustean” is thus used to describe situations where an arbitrary standard is used to measure success, while completely disregarding obvious harm that results from the effort.

So Gove now thinks building housing is harmful and the planning system can achieve nothing but harm?

Morover its a false reading of the aphorism. A correct reading would be chastise refusing schemes in excess of the target 9to fit the bed) or inflating fake undeliverable sites to the size of the target (to fit the bed).

2 thoughts on “Gove describes 300k Homes Manifesto target as ‘procrustian bed’

  1. Perhaps he considered and then rejected as even more telling of government efforts on this ( and many other areas) an analogy with Sysyphus.

  2. Pingback: Impact of Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on Hart - We Heart Hart

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