Planning minister Nick Boles: scourge of Luddites and Boris

Sep 5, 2012

New Cabinet arrival sent Mafia-style threat to London mayor and called National Trust 'latter-day Luddites'

IF THE seriousness of David Cameron's pledge to ease planning laws was in any doubt, it isn't now. Yesterday, the Prime Minister promoted his friend Nick Boles, who recently described the National Trust as "latter-day Luddites" for their opposition to building on the green belt, to the role of minister in charge of planning.

Boles's elevation to 'Minister of State for Decentralisation and Planning Policy' has been a long time coming. Until yesterday, he was the only MP among the 'Notting Hill Set' not to have been given a Cabinet post.

As a member of that youngish collection of modernising Conservatives, he is a close ally of Cameron.

Before entering parliament in 2010 as MP for Grantham and Stamford, Boles helped set up Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank described by the New Statesman as Cameron's "favourite".

Although he was briefly employed in 2008 as chief of staff to London mayor Boris Johnson, Boles is very much Cameron's man.

In 2009, after Johnson had upset the prime minister by telling the Conservative conference in Manchester that there should be a referendum on any EU treaty, Boles sent a Mafia-style threat to the London mayor.

The text message, sent in the early hours of the morning, read: "La vendetta è un piatto che va mangiato freddo." The phrase is Italian for 'Revenge is a dish best served cold'.

Boles later insisted he was one of Johnson's "biggest fans", adding, with a nod to Mario Puzo's The Godfather: "I know Boris will be disappointed but you wouldn't believe how hard it is to get hold of a horse's head these days."

More recently, Boles became embroiled in an expenses controversy when the Daily Mirror reported that he had charged the taxpayer £678.80 for Hebrew lessons after marrying his Israeli boyfriend Shay Meshulam in a civil partnership.

Eight other MPs also got free language lessons in the 12 months to last April, but the tuition is supposed to help MPs do their jobs.

Boles was unapologetic, telling the Mirror: "It is something I'm entitled to do. I've done it and that's that."

Earlier this year, Boles was similarly forthright when outlining his views on the army of groups, including the National Trust, RSPB and The Daily Telegraph, who opposed the government's plans to make it easier to develop the countryside.

In a speech to the Tory Reform Group, reported by the Daily Mail, he said: "It is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scare-mongering of latter-day Luddites to strangle developments that will boost living standards."

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