Boris builds towards Brexit
By Stephen Goodall
As covered in recent Cascade political updates, the appointment of Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister has been a long time coming. Several hundred pages and column inches have been written on what his premiership may bring and what his government may look like. Today we get the first glimpse of the reality of it. So, what’s next for the built environment sector?
The best place to start is his record as Mayor of London. It has been said by many commentators that Boris Johnson was pragmatic, often reaching agreements with unlikely people and organisations. He had no qualms about going over the heads of council leaders to secure affordable housing agreements with developers. It will be interesting to see how this pragmatism works in practice at No 10, where opinion in his own party, let alone the country, is so polarised.
Speculation on when the next General Election is already rife. Does he call it before the October deadline for Brexit – assuming it’s a no-deal Brexit - or after? In any case there is a question mark over whether he survives long enough to seriously consider non-Brexit related policies.
For our sector, a nationwide housebuilding programme is in the offering post-Brexit, and discussions will be had on how he manages the levers of power to release usable land and works with metropolitan Mayors.
The key to a Boris premiership, and our sector frankly, is the new Chief of Staff Sir Edward Lister. Sir Edward is the former Chairman of Homes England and a former GLA enforcer for the new Prime Minister. It’s also worth reflecting on how many ex-housing and infrastructure related advisers and MPs that the Prime Minister has surrounded himself with. We believe the answers for the housebuilding industry lie in the Homes England “Making Homes Happen” report, which was published last October. It’s a blueprint and a roadmap for more, better quality, volume housebuilding.
As Mayor, Boris Johnson received extraordinarily high personal approval ratings. Many saw this as a response to a series of London riots, where he was seen quite literally sweeping up the road. This empathetic, charismatic approach endeared him to even the most fervent opponent. His popularity in London waned due to his high-profile role in the Leave campaign and time will tell if Leave voters in the industrial north are ready to put their long-term faith in an old Etonian, especially if we have an early General Election.
If we don’t leave the EU on October 31st, 99 days from now, Europe and specifically Brexit will have claimed yet another Conservative Prime Minister. The challenges facing the new Prime Minister are much bigger and harder than getting down from a comedy zip wire.
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Stephen has been a member of the Cascade team since February 2017. A member of the Labour Party and a resident of Southwark, he works across London including recently in Lambeth, Richmond-upon-Thames and Wandsworth.