I should, before I write further, declare a personal interest, in that my parents own a second home, somewhere in darkest Gloucestershire.
That said, despite the fact that they've owned it for twenty years or so, I've never been there. "Why not?", I hear you ask. The first reason is a practical one. I don't drive, and never have done, making the property pretty much a trap for me. Yes, you can reach civilisation on foot (apparently), but it doesn't really appeal. The second reason is the principled one. You see, I don't actually much approve for second homes, not for puritanical reasons but because they have a dramatic impact on the communities they are situated in.
Because I have been an inveterate townie all of my life, it hasn't had a lot of impact on me, and my lack of knowledge with regards to local government means that even if it did, I really would have little clue as to what alternatives there might be to address it. Now that I am, at least, a part-time country dweller, I have begun to appreciate more precisely the fragility of small rural communities. In terms of local government knowledge, being engaged to Ros has filled much of the void.
And so, I find myself agreeing with much of the proposals coming from Matthew Taylor's commission, as commissioned by one Comrade Brown. They are strangely familiar though, and as the mists cleared over mid-Suffolk (the metaphorical ones, at least), I was reminded that this is actually established Liberal Democrat policy.
There are elements that I am uncomfortable with. Empowering local council officials to ascertain whether or not a property is a second home risks being intrusive, although if this is what is required to protect rural services, I'm willing to countenance it. I suppose that the question is, which house is the second one? What criteria might you use to establish this? It could be the order of purchase, or residence for the purposes of voting (would the latter accelerate the decline in voter registration in big cities?), or even a simple election. Perhaps linking it to principle private residence relief might be the better solution. You would then force people to declare one way or the other.
All this said, however, this whole debate is part of an attempt by a Labour Party in terminal philosophical decline to clothe itself in our finery. The worst thing about it is that their lack of credibility actually detracts from the good ideas that they're stealing. Time to take the initiative back, methinks, and take it to this wretched Government ...