Who is New Housing Minister Greg Clark?
Greg Clark MP appointed new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities of the United Kingdom. But who is he?
Less than a year into his tenure, Michael Gove, outgoing Secretary of State for Levelling Up, has been sacked for disloyalty to the Prime Minister.
His replacement in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), is Greg Clark. But, after several months of controversy surrounding Johnson, three of his junior colleagues have joined a group of MPs who have declared no confidence in the PM’s leadership and abandoned ship.
As Johnson has now resigned as party leader, a Conservative leadership contest will be triggered, so Clark’s position as head of DLUHC may be short-lived. This is something that outgoing Minister of State for Housing Stuart Andrew is likely to sympathise with, having served in his role for just five months.
Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, backed Remain in the referendum and briefly had the Conservative whip removed for seeking to block the threat of a no-deal Brexit.
He has served the governments of both David Cameron and Theresa May, two administrations that Johnson sought to distance himself from, so he isn’t a natural Johnson fan.
Greg Clark’s background
Clark’s previous record is mixed:
- He served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the height of austerity in the Treasury of George Osborne
- He served as Business Secretary and drew up the 2017 Industrial Strategy (this broke a Tory taboo on planning and intervention that had held for 40 years)
- In his first stint at the Department for Communities he negotiated devolution deals and served as minister for decentralisation
- His economic preference was for city-led growth based on creating dynamic urban economies that would rival London through agglomeration – a departure from the levelling-up approach that puts more emphasis on towns, smaller cities, and non-metropolitan Britain.
- He became Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government (since renamed with the new ‘Levelling-Up’ moniker).
After his appointment was announced, which sees him enter a second stint at the
department, Clark tweeted that he had a ‘duty to ensure that the country has a functioning government in the weeks ahead’.
Sarah Longlands, director of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies think tank, said:
I think there’s a bigger question about levelling up, because it’s so associated with Johnson. Some of the ministers, like O’Brien, were certainly really committed to the project, and so were some of the people he was working with, […] Are they going to continue to be involved? Is Greg Clark going to be interested in listening to them?
The future of levelling itself hangs in the balance as Johnson nears the end of his time at No 10, the programme itself having been called ‘vacuous’ by Dominic Cummings and criticised as ‘a slogan in search of a policy’ by parliament’s business committee.
The much-delayed Levelling Up white paper was published in February, but the question now is how long will the proposed changes in the white paper be delayed by the new Tory leadership contest?
Despite diagnosing some of the worst regional inequalities in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and criticising the UK’s over-centralised governance model, the solutions the white paper offered were lacking.
It remains to be seen how the upcoming Conservative leadership contest will affect the party’s narratives.
My instinct is that a new leader coming in will probably want to distance themselves from Johnson’s premiership and moving away from levelling up might be a way to do that.
Levelling up is likely to be adapted according to new political realities and the policy preferences of any new leader.