Jess McCabe

I am a journalist and these are some of the stories I've been working on lately

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Breaking the mould

By launching private rented sector arm Fizzy Living, Geeta Nanda has led Thames Valley Homes in an ambitious new direction. Here she tells Jess McCabe why she’s not worried the move will change the identity of the sector as a whole

Geeta Nanda is walking out the door of the Twickenham offices of the housing association where she presides, when she spots a new receptionist. ‘Hello,’ she says, approaching the desk, ‘are you one of the new apprentices?’

‘Yes,’ the young man confirms shyly, as the silk blouse-clad chief executive shakes his hand. I get the impression he’s only the latest to succumb to the open face and friendly manner of the Thames Valley Housing boss. This encounter is typical of the 48-year-old Londoner: she is a people person, but also a bit of a political operator, deftly highlighting the fact that TVH employs apprentices. Three, in fact.

Perched atop a branch of Waitrose, the 14,500-home housing association – which operates across London and the south east, and which Ms Nanda has led for five-and-a-half years – has recently had a thoroughly modern makeover. We sit down to talk in ‘the hub’ – what in less public relations-obsessed times would have been known as a staff room.

Read the rest at Inside Housing

Also out today, my interview with Joan Walley, chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee. When you profile people, it’s often hard to get people to say negative things about them – but with Joan it was really impossible. 

It’s not easy being green

As chair of the environmental audit committee, Joan Walley is currently at the centre of one of the most ferocious debates in the commons. Here, the sustainability stalwart tells Jess McCabe where the coalition is going wrong

Joan Walley is ordering coffees from the café in Portcullis House, the brash, light-filled block in Westminster which houses the offices of most MPs.

Just as the barista is about to pour our drinks into paper cups, she stops him to insist on using proper cups. Not because reusable cups are more eco-friendly – as one might expect given Ms Walley chairs the environmental audit select committee. But because the cups are made in Staffordshire, the place of her birth and the area she has represented for 26 years as Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North. Indeed, in her first ever speech to the House of Commons, in 1987, Ms Walley declared: ‘The people of Stoke-on-Trent North are the finest in the country. Furthermore, they make the finest pottery in the world.’

Ms Walley gives such a straight-forward impression of good-natured Englishness, she might as well have stepped out of Wallace and Gromit. It’s an impression that could imply the politician – who is widely described in glowing terms – is a little bit too nice for the Westminster shark pool. But, in fact, Ms Walley is in the trenches of one of the toughest fights in the commons. The EAC, which she chairs, is a committee of cross-party parliamentarians with the job of holding the coalition to its promise to be ‘the greenest government ever’.

Sustainable Housing sits down to get to know Ms Walley at a time when the mantra of green government seems in danger of slipping entirely out of sight. At the time of writing, a massive Twitter protest was calling for the environment secretary Owen Paterson to resign, listing a tirade of complaints against both him and the government in general, under the hashtag #industrylapdog. With the code for sustainable homes about to be ditched, the struggle to build green, affordable housing is similarly troubled. So what can Ms Walley and her committee do to put the government back on track? And who is the woman leading the EAC in this uphill struggle?

Read the rest in Sustainable Housing, or on the Inside Housing website

Interviewing Katie Roiphe – at The Toast

I love the Toast, a long-form blog set up by Hairpin alumni. So I am really pleased to have interviewed provocateur-in-chief Katie Roiphe for them.  – Since her first opinion piece, a critique of college anti-rape activism, was published in 1993 in the New York Times, Roiphe, an academic at New York University, has embraced a stock-in-trade described in Salon by Rebecca Traister…