MOMENTUM IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
“Momentum in politics is everything. With momentum, everything goes a party’s way. It’s almost as if they can do no wrong. Even the dangers usually posed by scandal or gaffes can melt away into nothing when the wind is in your sails.
But when you don’t have momentum, nothing goes right. You’re bogged down in the day to day, and it can feel like you’re under siege. And it is amazing how, when you’re down, calamity and bad news come thick and fast.
What’s more, it is very hard to get momentum. And particularly so when you’re stuck in a rut, languishing in the polls, stumbling from one negative story to the next. Life becomes a string of attempts to regain the initiative – relaunches, rebranding and reshuffles.
Since the return from summer recess, Labour and Tory fortunes have contrasted starkly. The Government continues to languish in the polls. Despite a string of policy-led attempts to regain the initiative, nothing seems to shift the needle. When 54% rule out voting for the party at the next election and 75% saying it’s time for a new Government, the uphill struggle for the Tories is laid bare.
What’s more, with RAAC (and the Education Secretary’s on camera faux pas), the escape from Wandsworth prison and allegations a Tory researcher was a Chinese spy leads to a feeling the Government could be moving into the phase of being rather gaffe prone.
On the other hand, Labour will be delighted with how the past few weeks have gone. Their double-digit poll leads show no sign of narrowing. As I’ve written about, Keir Starmer’s reshuffle will go down as a textbook example of its kind, all done from a position of commanding strength. There’s little thrown at Labour at the moment that doesn’t just bounce off the party.
However, things could still change. And all is not lost for the Tories. Much can still happen and the world is a very uncertain place, as the last few years have shown. For the Government, a lot is riding on an economic recovery and an easing of the cost of living pressures on households.
Nor can Labour be complacent. Their strategy is one of presenting themselves as a government-in-waiting, free of undeliverable policy proposals or uncosted spending commitments. But getting the balance right will be key – the public will still need to be motivated to vote for a party that looks like it has the ambition and the solutions to solve the country’s problems. To bank on the other side’s unpopularity alone is a risky strategy.
Party conference season fast approaches - a key moment in the political calendar. Conferences are also moments of potential danger – when momentum can be lost, or when a party in the doldrums goes into meltdown in full view of the media. Or they can be triumphant demonstrations of a united and confident party, or a future government in waiting. Much of the coming months political weather will be determined by what happens in both Liverpool and Manchester. It will be fascinating to watch.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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RACE FOR CITY HALL LATEST
With the Lib Dems selecting Rob Blackie, the four main parties have now all chosen their candidates for the Mayoral election on 2 May 2024. The four are Sadiq Khan for Labour, Susan Hall for the Conservatives, Zoë Garbett for the Green Party and Blackie. A full eight months’ worth of campaigning lies ahead, and keen watchers of London politics will have raised their eyebrows at last week’s polling by Redfield & Wilton. Incumbent Khan was just one point ahead of Hall, with Blackie on 16% and Garbett on 9%. As today’s LDN introduction touches on, momentum is everything in politics, and the closeness of the poll was jumped on by key London Tories and the political commentariat that it is game on in the race for City Hall. To add further spice to the findings, the same poll also showed that should Jeremy Corbyn stand as an independent, with his 14% of the vote he’d deprive Khan of victory and hand the keys to City Hall to Susan Hall. While the prospect of Corbyn standing remains purely theoretical (albeit he has refused to rule it out), should he choose to do so would bring politics full circle since 2015 when Khan was one of the Labour MPs whose nomination set Corbyn on the road to victory in the Labour leadership contest. But the poll has also raised eyebrows, not least as buried in the detail it reveals Khan ahead in outer London and Hall in the lead in inner London, the flip of what most people would expect. In addition, the Labour and Tory numbers are out of kilter with most recent polling, which tend to give Khan (and Labour) a larger lead. One thing is for sure, the move to first past the post has livened things up, and until we see further polling it is impossible to say for sure if this is a rogue result or part of a wider trend.
The demise of homeware retailer Wilko marks the end of an era for high streets. In London alone, 17 of Wilko’s stores are set to shut their doors for the final time. But despite Oxford Street gearing up for a £90m regeneration, courtesy of Westminster City Council, the retail sector is facing tough times – one which reflects the economy in general. In the face of this challenge, MPs gathered in Westminster Hall last week to debate the long-called for return to VAT-free shopping for tourists. While Paul Scully, Minister for London, had urged the Government to reinstate the policy, though in the debate Treasury Minister Victoria Atkins refused to commit. This is despite growing momentum behind the campaign, including fresh proponents tailors Charles Tyrwhitt, Cadogan Estates and the New West End Company BID. In response to the existential threat facing town centre shopping, Dame Sharon White, Chair of John Lewis Partnership, has called for a Royal Commission to improve our high streets from a ‘holistic’ perspective. White argues that high streets reflect the spirit and ‘centre of local communities,’ exactly as argued by projects funded by City Hall’s High Streets for All Challenge, which will conclude later this year. But for 44 of the UK’s leading retailers, the threat of the Chancellor increasing business rates is a threat to growth. Ahead of the Autumn Statement, the coalition led by the British Retail Consortium has warned that a potential increase in combined tax bills of over £400m could prompt ‘upward pressure on prices.’ With the Chancellor due at the despatch box on 22 November, he has over two months to solve this puzzle.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Islington Council has approved Endurance Land’s plans to partially demolish, refurbish and extend its 10-storey office building to 36 storeys at the Old Street. The developer will retain 60% of its existing building structure to provide a total of 700,000 sq ft of floor space for technology and innovation businesses, with 45,000 sq ft being affordable workspace.
- Brent Council has approved plans by Access Self Storage to deliver a 655-home Build-to-Rent scheme at First Way, Wembley, 129 of which are co-living studios. The development will be delivered across five buildings, built up to 22 storeys, including 13,993 sq ft of flexible office space and 78,576 sq ft of storage.
- Tottenham Hotspur FC has submitted revised plans to increase the height of its 23-storey hotel by six floors. The changes would increase the building’s overall floorspace by 40%. The hotel scheme, located next to its stadium at White Hart Lane, received planning permission for its original plans in 2016 and had applied for a pre-planning application for the proposed changes in June 2023.
- Greystar has revised existing plans to redevelop the site of a former biscuit factory in Bermondsey, after plans from the site’s former owners Grosvenor received planning permission to deliver a 1,548-home scheme at 35% affordable in February 2020. Greystar acquired the site from Grosvenor in 2022 with their previous set of plans having been called in by the Mayor of London in 2019 due to a lack of affordable housing. Greystar has added an additional 76 homes and a second staircase to form a 1,624-home scheme at 25% affordable, with proposals being aimed for submission to Southwark Council in October
- Stanhope has announced the departure of head of new business Aldous Hodgkinson after 34 years. He is succeeded by Joe Binns.
- Jennifer Peters has been appointed as Ealing Council’s new Assistant Director for Planning, Design and Sustainability. Jennifer was previously Director, Planning and Building Control at Tower Hamlets, and before that headed up the London Plan team at the GLA.
- London Councils has announced changes to support Cllr Georgia Gould’s maternity leave. Cllr Claire Holland (Lambeth) will be acting Chair, with Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Enfield) as acting Deputy. Cllr Grace Williams (Waltham Forest) has joined as the Executive Member for Communities, while Cllr Deirdre Costigan (Ealing) is acting chair of the Transport and Environment Committee.
What’s the holdup? Latest figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on planning applications shows that the number of decisions made by councils has fallen 13% in the last six months, compared to the same period in 2022. Data from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) echoes this decline, revealing a 20% drop in housing schemes being granted permission in the same timeframe. In response, HBF condemned the Government’s ‘anti-development policy’ in reducing ‘appetite’ for new housing. Analysis from Lichfields has added that it takes SME housebuilders a year to receive full planning permission, compared to 14 weeks in 1990. But it’s not just planning applications that are slowing down. Councils are delaying and scrapping their Local Plans in response to uncertainty with regulations and policy. Research from Turley found that 61 local authorities (1 in 5 of all councils) in England paused work on Local Plans in the last year. In London, this includes Redbridge, Hounslow, Waltham Forest and Croydon, as highlighted by Planning Resource.
LURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
Much has been written about the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the Government’s flagship piece of legislation, but where does is currently stand? The LURB (as it is affectionately called) is currently at report stage in the House of Lords, where it is being subjected to a flood of attempts at amending it, both from the Government, the opposition and backbenchers. Recent amendments to the LURB include the requirement that local plans include ‘sufficient provision’ for social housing and that housing need information must be updated annually. A range of other amendments, covering everything from climate change to planning data, have also been agreed. The Government has also sought to amend its own Bill, such as scrapping nutrient neutrality rules, which are set to be voted on this evening. However, Labour have confirmed they’ll oppose the change. The LURB continues to trundle though Parliament, though with the volume of amendments, it will look rather different once it becomes law.
- Can London’s Oxford Street be revived?
- Nick’s blog on Labour’s recent Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.
- Learning just why Hampstead Heath is home to a flock of sheep for a week.
- City AM’s coverage of how many Pret sandwiches were sold at Heathrow in August… take a guess!
- MySociety’s resources helping us all navigate the new constituencies that will be in place at the next General Election.
LEGENDRE UK LAUNCHES PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT BRANCH
This week we supported our client Legendre UK's announcement of its expansion into the property development sector, appointing Nicolas Swiderski as Head of Property Development. With over 18 years of experience, Swiderski brings a wealth of expertise to the role, having held senior management positions at Linkcity (part of the Bouygues Group) in France, UK, and Australia.
Legendre UK will replicate the successful model employed by parent company Groupe Legendre, which operates as both a contractor and developer. The move is a natural progression for Legendre UK as the company has already invested funding into some of its projects in the UK. They plan to build out all their development projects themselves, leveraging the advantage of their developer role to influence the decision-making process from the project's inception, including partnering with like-minded clients who prioritise ESG and sustainability. A particular focus will be placed on expanding the company’s portfolio of retrofit projects.
This new development branch will focus on projects encompassing London and other core UK cities, including Brighton, Bristol, and Birmingham, with the initial focus being residential, build-to-rent, co-living, and student accommodation within the Greater London area.
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