A week on from a historic General Election, Reece Pugh takes a deep dive into the result and subsequent announcements related to housing and the built environment.

Key points:

  • A super majority for Labour presents opportunities for drastic reforms, which will be needed to “get Britain building again” and deliver 300,000 homes a year.
  • Labour, Labour, Labour: London is red, and so will all gears turn together?
  • Huge increase in the number of former councillors who are now MPs.
  • Lowest General Election turnout since 2001.
  • Lowest vote share for the two main political parties in the post-war period.
  • Comparative rise of Reform and the Greens and the resurgence of the Liberal Democrats.
  • A shallow majority for Labour, with some seats secured with three-digit majorities.
  • In the North, Labour now dominates. In the South, the Liberal Democrats are a force to be reckoned with.
  • The end of the Conservative Party?

Vote share for Labour and Conservatives combined circa 55%, the lowest in election history

An historic General Election victory. There’s just no other way to say it. If anyone now tries to tell you that they knew Keir Starmer would become Prime Minister when he succeeded Jeremy Corbyn, they are lying. After the 2019 General Election many assumed that the Conservatives could remain in power until 2029 and, in contrast, Labour have succeeded in a remarkable turnaround since then. Now with a majority that many Conservative Prime Ministers could only dream of, it is important to reflect on this General Election result and what it means for the built environment.

A shallow majority?

This General Election result is significant in many ways besides Labour securing a huge majority. Voter turnout was down 7.4% to 59.9% compared to the 2019 General Election and Labour’s share of the vote only increased by 2% when compared to 2019. Interestingly, Labour secured 500,000 less votes than under Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Of course, the Conservatives vote share fell by 19.9% and votes cast for the Conservatives overall cut in half so it could be argued that Labour won and that’s that.

However, it is important to note that many of the seats won by Labour have been secured with only three-digit majorities. Some by even less, with 22-year-old Labour candidate Sam Carling unseating veteran Conservative MP Shailesh Vara in North West Cambridgeshire by only 39 votes. In Hendon, the Labour candidate won by just 15 votes. In Poole, veteran Conservative Robert Syms was defeated by 18 votes. Moving away from the closest of margins, even victories in seats such as Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Labour won by only 355 votes and in Chelsea and Fulham, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Ben Coleman won by only 152 votes.

Of course, there will be numerous reasons why Labour narrowly won these seats, but one factor could be the considerable amount of time that leading figures, particularly Shadow Cabinet members, spent campaigning in these seats rather than their own. The likes of Rachel Reeves, Angela Rayner, David Lammy and Wes Streeting travelled up and down the country to drum up support for the Party’s candidates in target constituencies.

But the narrowest of margins weren’t only reserved for seats targeted by Labour, some leading figures within the Party came close to losing their seats, such as Wes Streeting, and others did (more on that later). Paired with the Labour Party’s position on Gaza, and the targeted drive to unseat Labour MPs who had supported said position, demonstrates that under the surface there are challenges that this new Government will face in trying to unite everyone under a common banner.

Whilst Labour’s victory in the General Election is historic, the results indicate that voters are losing patience and want to see results from whoever governs them. The Prime Minister and Chancellor will be acutely aware they need to deliver if they want to maintain their majority for more than one parliamentary term.

What has the new Government promised so far on the built environment?

In a General Election where the Labour Party’s manifesto was lacking detail, one area which saw much briefing to the press was their plans for the built environment. Regional spatial plans, reinstatement of mandatory housing targets, a brownfield and grey land-first approach, it was clear during the campaign that this new Government would mean business.

On Monday the new Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, confirmed some of these commitments that this Government will work towards to getting Britain building again and drive growth in the economy. This Government believes that the quicker delivery of infrastructure and housing is key to Britain’s economic recovery and future growth. The delivery of 1.5million new homes over this Parliament will be welcome news – although it isn’t much different from the previous Conservative Government’s commitment of 300,000 new homes a year – the proof will be in whether reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework will have the desired effect.

There will of course be a delay due to the slowdown caused by high interest rates and the affordability of homes, but if the correct mix of social and market homes can be delivered, the Government may just be able to solve an issue that has plagued 17 housing ministers over the past 14 years.

Strong local government advocates in Parliament?

Small margins of victory or not, what is clear is the considerable number of new MPs who until recently where councillors. Within this new cohort of MPs, 50 former or current councillors have now taken seats in the House of Commons, and this provides an opportunity for local government to have a stronger voice in Parliament than ever before.

This significance will not be lost on the former (and in some cases still current) Council Leaders who will be entering Parliament. For Labour, Nesil Caliskan (Enfield Leader) in Barking, Georgia Gould (Camden Leader) in Maida Vale and Queens Park, Jim Dickson (former Lambeth Leader) in Dartford and Shaun Davies (Telford & Wrekin Leader) in Telford. For the Conservatives, Bradley Thomas (Wychavon Leader) in Bromsgrove, Lewis Cocking, Leader of Broxbourne Council and now MP in Hertfordshire. For the Liberal Democrats, Vikki Slade (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Leader) in Mid Dorset and North Poole. This is an opportunity for local government to have a strong voice in Parliament, with advocates who understand the challenges councils face. However, this will result in understandably a drain of talent away from local government, with the majority of these new MPs standing down as councillors to focus fully on their new roles. Where Leaders have become MPs, leadership contests are a certainty.

London – Simply Red?

The London Mayoral Elections may seem like a lifetime ago rather than two months ago, with minor exceptions the Conservatives holding steady their number of GLA members, but the results from the General Election show a dramatic shift in Labour’s power in the capital. Of course, since the borough elections in May 2022, Labour now hold more London Boroughs than ever before and the shift towards Labour continued in this General Election; winning notable seats from the Conservatives such as Hendon, Chelsea and Fulham and Westminster and the City of London. Danny Beales victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, his second attempt after a narrow loss in 2023, indicates opposition to ULEZ may already be softening.

Whilst the Conservatives managed to hold on in Bromley and Hillingdon, and the Liberal Democrats won back seats in London that they lost in 2019 and gained Wimbledon, with a Labour Mayor, Labour MPs and Labour-run councils, London is now very much a Labour city. The question is without a Conservative government to blame any shortcomings on, will the prospect of an alignment between Labour across all tiers of government lead to tangible results? London Councils has welcomed the recent announcements regarding housing and planning reform claiming to be “ready with hardhats on, shovels in hand” but we’re now less than two years away from the 2026 London-wide elections, so we will have to wait and see.


This General Election has seen the largest number of independent MPs returned to Parliament in decades. Whilst George Galloway may have failed to be re-elected in Rotherham, independent victories provided some interesting results at the expense of Labour.

Jonathan Ashworth, formerly Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary of State, was unseated in Leicester South, alongside his counterparts in Birmingham Perry Barr, Dewsbury and Batley, and Blackburn. Whilst there are reports that these losses are a result of Labour’s position on the war in Gaza, there is clearly a level of discontent among Labour supporters in some areas – notably Jeremy Corbyn being re-elected in Islington North as an independent despite a well-organised and funded campaign by Labour to oust him.

As many within the Labour Party celebrate their overall victory in the General Election, time will tell if they should be concerned about this independent threat.

The rise of smaller political parties?

Whilst Labour have secured a significant majority, their largest since 1997, this General Election has brought about considerable success for smaller political parties. Notwithstanding the losses of the SNP to Labour.

At the expense of the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats now have 72 seats with many of these located across the South of England – with no Conservative MPs left in either Oxfordshire or Cornwall for example. Alongside this, the Green Party now have four seats, unseating Thangnam Debbonaire in Bristol Central and gaining Waveney in Suffolk and North Herefordshire. It will be interesting to see how the Green Party will be able to reconcile the differences between their metropolitan constituents in Brighton and Bristol with their rural supporters in Herefordshire and Suffolk in Parliament.

And of course, Reform won five seats, a feat UKIP couldn’t manage in the 2015 General Election, even with Nigel Farage as Party Leader. The results for Reform extend further than just these five seats, whilst it is significant that they have won in similar seats across the country – such as Clacton, Boston and Skegness, and Great Yarmouth, areas which voted for Brexit by a considerable margin in the EU referendum.

Reform came second in many seats won by Labour in the North of England and whilst they didn’t replicate this placing across seats in the South of England, their candidates in the South consistently garnered enough votes to overtake the Liberal Democrats and Green Party in many seats. The significance of this cannot be lost on this being the first General Election that Reform have properly contested, and we can expect Nigel Farage to be his majesty’s official opposition if measured by volume of media appearances and soundbites in Parliament.

Are the Conservatives finished? 

Whilst the Conservatives have taken a hammering in this election, this defeat may not be the final nail in the coffin for the party, even with Liz Truss losing her seat and the former seats of Theresa May (Maidenhead) and David Cameron (Witney) falling to the Liberal Democrats. We haven’t yet seen how the Conservatives have fared in a full election cycle.

We’ve had local elections in 2023, Mayoral elections in May 2024 and now a General Election. The key test for the Conservatives will be the local elections in May 2025, when many areas will be holding County Council elections where Labour and the Liberal Democrats have made significant gains such as in Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hampshire.

The Reform vote will have prevented the Conservatives from holding onto some parliamentary seats at this general election, but it did not make the difference between the Conservatives winning or losing the general election. The Conservatives are solely responsible for their own defeat. However, the 2025 local elections will provide a more focused look at support, particularly for smaller political parties. The Greens took control of East Hertfordshire District Council last year and made considerable gains in Suffolk, both usually safe Conservative areas which now have Labour MPs. Will these next set of local elections pose the risk of the further demise of the Conservative Party?

It will certainly be an opportunity for voters to show if the Conservatives have started to regain their trust and if not, we could see a similar performance for Reform as UKIP in the 2013 local elections when they gained a significant number of councillors across the country and became the opposition on many county councils such as in Kent. If the Conservatives cannot keep control of their county councils, many of which remained Conservative through the Blair years, then further soul-searching will be urgently required.