The leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Party have all set out their London stalls through the pages of the Evening Standard in recent days.
Just as well, as tomorrow’s election is shaping up to be a referendum on a national government beset by scandal and the contest in London could well produce a few upsets.
While many will be looking to the north and the midlands for possible signs that the Tories’ grip is slipping, we’ll be closely watching bellwether London boroughs like Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster. Many a Labour and Liberal Democrat administration will also be tested on their local record too, here Harrow, Croydon and Sutton spring to mind.
We bring you the latest from the campaign trail below in our last edition before we go to the polls tomorrow. LDN will also be bringing you the headline results in an election results day special on Friday, followed by more detailed analysis next week. Do make sure you follow us on Twitter @ldncomms for news as-it-happens as results come in.
But first, a few words on today’s surprise announcement that Crossrail’s central section will finally come on-line on 24 May by LCA’s founder, who has closely watched the development of this major piece of infrastructure for the past three decades:
"Nearly 50 years since the term ‘Crossrail’ was first used to describe a central London east-west rail service, 33 years since the Central London Rail Study formally proposed the Paddington to Liverpool Street service, 29 years since I first lobbied the government about this project, and 14 years since the Crossrail Act, we now know that Crossrail - or more appropriately the Elizabeth Line - will open, in part, on Tuesday 24 May from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
It seems churlish, in these challenging times, not to welcome this news with a cheer (please note, Grant Shapps), despite it being over three years late in delivery. 10 new stations are being delivered along with upgrades to over 30 others. Journey times are being slashed. Capacity on other lines freed up. The 12 trains an hour service on the central section from 630am-11pm six days a week will be welcome by the many commuters (including myself), who have waited years for this service to arrive.
There are of course still challenges for the project. A smooth and safe launch. Completing Bond Street Station. Opening the central section on Sundays. And of course opening the rest of the route from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield which is targeted for the autumn of 2022 and full service across the entire route introduced by May next year.
So we wish TfL and MTR all the best for the launch of this long awaited and much needed boost to London."
LCA Senior Advisor and Partner Robert Gordon Clark
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BAD NEWS FOR BORIS?
With less than 24 hours until the polls open, the prospects for the Conservatives aren’t looking particularly good. Further polling and analysis by Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now has found that the Tories could lose almost 550 seats across the country (just a week or so earlier, their previous, widely-reported figure was 800 seats, but what’s 250 seats between friends?). To add to the Tories discomfort, a poll by Lord Ashcroft has found that 57% of respondents would choose a Labour Government led by Sir Keir Starmer against 43% for a Conservative Government led by Boris Johnson. As for the issues that will be at the forefront of voters’ minds tomorrow, a tracker created by Royal Holloway University of London and Survation reinforces the findings of previous polls indicating that economic worries are the single biggest concern across most of the UK.
Most dramatic seat loss forecasts for the governing party are almost certainly an expectation management ploy and should be taken with a ballot box full of salt, though clearly the prospects aren’t great for the Tories. For its part, the Labour camp is keen not set expectations too high either; as reported by The Guardian, members of the Shadow Cabinet have warned that the Party is on ‘thin ice’ and may even lose ‘red wall’ seats at the election.
READING THE RUNES
On election-eve, we find ourselves sitting on a glut of predictions as to what the future holds for London’s boroughs. The key battlegrounds haven’t shifted much since the beginning of the campaign, with Tory-held Barnet still widely considered the borough most likely to swing to Labour. We have, however, seen a distinct uptick in speculation that Wandsworth – aka ‘Thatcher’s favourite borough’ – could also go red, with the Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian, the i, Evening Standard, MyLondon, On London and… Washington Post all agreeing that a Labour win here is also possible (though Tory expectation management might also be at play here). Labour meanwhile is on the defensive in Harrow and Croydon, where Labour Mayoral candidate Val Shawcross has recently taken a page or two from her opponents’ playbook. Meanwhile in Enfield, where Labour entered the race slightly on the back foot, the Tory opposition keeps tripping itself up – a second racism-related scandal in weeks has seen one of their candidates suspended from the party. For excellent whistle-stop tours of the situation across London, see recent analyses by veteran journo John Elledge, and psephologist Ben Walker. The Evening Standard’s indefatigable Local Democracy Reporter Joe Talora meanwhile offers superb overviews of the situation in Bromley, Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, and Westminster.
Allegations of foul play and skulduggery have cropped up in London and further afield. The Chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden has complained that an apparent pattern of seats uncontested by Labour and the Lib Dems in parts of the country is ‘far too substantial to be a mere coincidence’ and demanded that they confess to concealing a secret electoral pact from the public. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have denied it. Separately, in the aftermath of the Crossrail opening news today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was apoplectic, calling the announcement 'an act of breathtaking political cynicism by the mayor' asserting that it is 'breaking election rules on such announcements in an effort to garner votes the day before the local elections in London' and saying that he is 'immediately referring this breach to the Electoral Commission for investigation.' Shapps then promptly posted a Conservative-branded Crossrail opening announcement of his own on Twitter, presumably making sure that if Sadiq had breached pre-election rules, then the Government had too... We suppose, then, that Government sources just happened to brief the media on plans to expand Right to Buy over the weekend. A mere coincidence, surely? Separately, the Tories have been accused of stuffing letterboxes with dodgy campaign leaflets in Barnet and the Prime Minister himself has been criticised for grossly exaggerating figures spent by Hammersmith & Fulham’s Labour administration on EU flags.
There’s worse (potentially) at play in parts of London – but there’s also signs that many of our politicians do believe in fair play. On one (extreme) end of the spectrum, such is the extent of fears that Tower Hamlets could again see widespread election fraud that Met Police officers will be posted at every polling station in the borough, among other ‘extra steps to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent.’ But then, there are also reminders that there is a good deal of decency in local democracy: the death of Iqbal Singh, who was running for the Conservatives in Redbridge’s Mayfield ward, has led to the Tories and Labour both suspending their campaigns in the ward and the Council confirming that the elections for this ward will be postponed until 26 May; that is despite the fact that Labour’s candidates in the ward include none other than the borough’s incumbent Leader, Jas Athwal.
WAIT FOR IT...
We can all speculate until we’re blue (or red) in the face, but in the end, it is the sum of individual decisions made by millions of Londoners that will decide the election. We’ve pored through the Press Association’s list of target declaration times and by our tally, about two-thirds of the boroughs intend to carry out their counts overnight and declare results in the wee hours of Friday morning. Croydon ambitiously says it may have results as early as 2am on Friday morning, while Tower Hamlets is promising nothing before… 5pm on Saturday. LDN will aim to deliver an election results’ special on the emerging picture by Friday afternoon, before the end of the workday – so stay tuned!
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Taylor Wimpey is set to demolish its half-built The Factory scheme in Hackney after it was found to have ‘potential structural issues’. The mixed-use scheme will now be rebuilt with a revised design.
- Chair of the Government’s Office for Place Nicholas Boys Smith has urged Housing Secretary Michael Gove to reject M&S’ plans for the demolition and reconstruction of its Oxford Street store, saying that the proposals will ‘waste huge amounts of carbon’. Gove issued an Article 31 holding direction on the planning application in April, giving the Government time to decide whether it would call in the scheme or not.
- At a debate recently hosted by The London Society, TfL’s plans for housing developments on Tube station car parks were a hotly debated topic. Affordable housing campaigner Anya Martin argued that London is in greater need of housing than car parks, while a representative from the Hands off Finchley Central campaign group voiced concerns about the ‘scale’ of the proposed schemes. The full summary of the debate, published by On London, can be read here.
Jace Tyrrell, the CEO of property and retail lobby group the New West End Company, will step down this October after six years in the role. Tyrell is leaving the organisation to head up Australia’s first Business Improvement District (BID), The New Sydney Waterfront Company. A frequent presence in the media and on the industry scene as the face of the West End, he will be missed.
Roger Wade, the Founder and Chief Executive of Boxpark, will step down this May, 10 years since founding the company. Boxpark will now be run by current Managing Director Simon Champion and Chief Operating Officer Ben McLaughlin.
Craig Carson has joined Barratt Developments as Managing Director of their West London division. Carson was previously a Development Director at Joseph Homes.
Alex Sutton is joining Trust for London as Programme Director. Sutton was previously Head of Programme, Migration at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
The Museum of London is recruiting three Governors who will be appointed by the Mayor of London to join the Museum’s Board in July 2022.
HOUSEBUILDING ON HOLD?
It’s increasingly hard to tell whether the Government really wants to fulfil its own pledge to see 300,000 homes built a year – and it is clearly at odds with housebuilders on how to achieve it. For starters, Whitehall seems to have been taken by surprise by Natural England’s nutrient neutrality policy, which – according to the Home Builders Federation (HBF) – has forced up to 100,000 new homes to be put on hold across swathes of Norfolk, Hampshire, Devon and the North East. The watchdog’s policy has prompted local authorities to issue a blanket ban on many new developments in certain areas until further notice and The Times reports that Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) officials are ‘urgently investigating’ measures to counteract this. Separately, the Government’s own plans to replace the Section 106 system has now seen 14 senior planners, housing officials and house builders (including the HBF) writing to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, warning that the change could backfire badly. Meanwhile, while the Building Safety Bill finally received Royal Assent on Thursday, the HBF continues to oppose some of the measures included in the Act, with developers being forced to pick up the bill for wider systemic failures.
LONDON INVESTMENT LATEST
Another week, another mixed bag of news for London as an investment destination in the era of ‘Global Britain’. On the one hand, the city’s fundamentals clearly remain strong. Why else would investors in the life sciences and retail continue to raise hundreds of millions to invest in London and its hinterland? We’re also seeing the West End continuing to recover and GLA Economics’ latest London Economy Today bulletin offers a fairly encouraging health check for the capital. But in less positive news, analysis of key indicators by the Centre for Cities, London First, Remit Consulting, NWEC and others suggest that the ‘new normal’ looks increasingly likely to cause ructions and permanent change for London's retail, hospitality and office sectors. Meanwhile, Chelsea FC’s sale is now reportedly ‘in doubt’ amidst efforts by owner Roman Abramovich to ‘restructure’ the deal. Separately, luxury development in the Nine Elms regeneration area has once again driven negative headlines, with Chinese developer R&F Properties selling its Vauxhall One scheme for a price ‘about 42% lower than the project’s market value’ and a £62m loss.
The London Real Estate Forum (LREF) has announced the programme for its annual flagship event, which will take place at the Barbican Centre on 28-29 September. As ever, LREF will feature keynote speeches, panel debates, project briefings, solution-focussed roundtables and expert-led tours of some of the key development areas through London. Alongside the annual forum, LREF continues to be supported by New London Architecture, whose year-round programme of events now includes their recently unveiled pop-up gallery at Westfield Stratford City. The pop-up is showcasing their breath-taking scale model of London. But the built environment events circuit more generally is now well and truly back, with UKREiiF and the National Planning Summit fast approaching this month – LCA will be attending both. The British Property Federation is also hosting a number of events in May including their Annual National Residential Investment Conference and Residential Dinner. Further ahead, the London Festival of Architecture will run through the month of June and the Festival of Place will take place in July.
MUM, I'M ON TV!
LCA’s elections analysis has continued to feature prominently in the media, with LBC’s Theo Usherwood mentioning our polling of Londoners this week, while LDN editor Jenna Goldberg has been interviewed by BBC Radio London, ITV London (tonight’s election special!), as well as featuring in Open City’s Londown podcast (new episode out tomorrow). But LCA does more than toot its own horn. This week, we were also were pleased to support our clients Lee Valley Regional Park Authority as they welcomed Dame Laura Kenny to the Lee Valley VeloPark to open a new exhibition about the Olympic legacy. We had BBC, ITV, Sky Sports and plenty of other media there to promote it and speak to CEO Shaun Dawson. We also landed a Property Week exclusive for client Urbanest’s signing of a £148m green loan with La Salle, which will help it deliver its new student accommodation scheme in Battersea.
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