Talking to Stephen Owen it is somehow hard to believe that he is a lawyer. While your correspondent has had – readers may be surprised to learn – little need for legal representation, he has nevertheless a firm picture of counsel as a sharp, confrontational and adversarial type who goes for his or her opponent’s jugular at every opportunity, ruthlessly exploiting any slip. This is not Stephen’s style at all. On the contrary, it is much easier to imagine him as a judge: Thoughtful, deliberative and even-handed as he dispenses verdicts that are the more convincing for being so clearly the product of long reflection and serious weighing of the evidence.
His discussion of housing policy reflected this judicious approach. “We need to ensure there is a continuum of housing – there’s no one size fits all and we need to make sure the gaps are plugged where the market can’t cope, the government needs to be there. And we will be – government revenues are increasing as the economy continues to be strong. We should, and we will, continue to cycle those revenues through areas of need.” Discussion moved on to the various needs and Stephen talked of the need to anticipate demographic changes and ensure that an aging population would have affordable and accessible housing.
Asking about where we are with the section 95 campaign, he assured us that he would continue to push for a resolution, whether in government or in opposition. While he confessed to being troubled by the thought of a conservative government, saying that the reason he entered politics was to prevent that from happening, you got the sense that he would approach opposition with the same quiet reasonableness he has displayed in government. That said, being on the other side of the debate would be an uncomfortable experience.