“You might notice some changes to the LDN format from today, with the aim of making it more readable. We hope these are well received by our loyal readership and do get in touch with your thoughts.
The political centre of gravity shifts for the next couple of weeks as the parties gather for their annual conferences. First up next week are the Lib Dems, before the Tories hit Manchester and finally Labour come together in Liverpool.
Party conferences are, along with budgets and the state opening of parliament, part of the regular calendar of activity that peppers the political year. Officially, they’re a moment for parties to come together, take decisions over how they’re run and decide key matters of policy. Some have more internal democracy than others – Labour’s sees delegates sent from constituency parties, with motions on key policy areas debated and discussed. But as set piece moments, and with a free run in the media, they’re key opportunities for parties to set out their stall to the electorate.
At this particular point in the cycle, conferences take on an even greater importance. And for Labour and the Conservatives, the mood in the ranks differs enormously. Labour is buoyed by strong poll ratings, and Keir Starmer’s position has been strengthened with a textbook reshuffle of his front bench. For the Tories, morale is low as they struggle to get any momentum, and the polls refuse to budge despite repeated attempts at resets and relaunches, including, it seems, watering down key net zero commitments.
It’s unlikely we’ll see vast amounts of new policy emerge from the coming weeks – there’s probably another cycle of conferences before the voters go to the polls. What instead we’ll see are attempts at projecting a message to the voters – it’s much more about crafted slogans, imagery and communicating a broad vision for the country than it is about detailed policy.
Labour will be focused on looking like a unified party, confident (yet not arrogant or complacent) – their aim to be a true government in waiting and for Keir Starmer to look ‘primeministerial’. The Conservatives will be keen to use their Conference as a springboard, to get back on the front foot and put behind them a tough couple of months. Both will be desperate to avoid infighting and the dreaded gaffes.
Absolutely key to both are their leaders’ speeches. Aides and speech writers will have been beavering away for weeks, and will continue to do so right up to the last minute. This single moment is perhaps the most influential point of party conference season – it’s the time when a leader really up against it can come out fighting (see Thatcher in 1980 or Kinnock in 1985), when the political weather can switch in an instance (see Cameron in 2007) or when calamity can strike (see May in 2017).
Conference also sees some subtle signs of which way the political wind is blowing. The corporate presence – witnessed by wandering around the exhibition stands or flicking through the fringe guide to see who is sponsoring what – tells the story of where power lies, or more importantly where power is most likely to lie in the future. Last year’s Labour conference saw a notable increase in companies and campaign groups compared to previous years as there was a growing sense the party could form the next Government. Will this year see this trend continuing, as the polls continue to point towards Labour winning the next election? It’ll be fascinating to watch and myself and LCA colleagues will be in Manchester and Liverpool where we will no doubt see many of you.
Some sad news has emerged today that former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone is suffering from Alzheimer’s. It is such a cruel disease that progressively strips people of their dignity and we send Ken and his family our best wishes at this difficult time.
As we’re about to send this week’s LDN, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is delivering his (hastily brought forward) speech in which he’s announced the Government is watering down its net zero plans. It’s certainly proving controversial – so far, managing to annoy business, some of his own MPs, his predecessor as Prime Minister and the Speaker. More on this in next week’s LDN on what is clearly going to be a political dividing line at the next election.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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OFF THE RAILS?
RAIL RUMOURS: Last week, it was reported that the Government is considering scrapping phase two of HS2, connecting Birmingham and Manchester, to save up to £34bn. At the weekend, The Times reported that the PM is also considering terminating the line at Old Oak Common, rather than at Euston.
Hitting the buffers? A Government spokesperson then refused to confirm that the Government was still committed to delivering HS2 in full, while in the Commons Transport Minister Richard Holden (who is responsible for roads and local transport, rather than rail) was evasive in his answers to MPs questions.
End of the line? Like the Government, Labour’s position also seems rather unclear, with differing views from shadow frontbenchers over the past few days. Just yesterday Keir Starmer also refused to commit to delivering HS2.
Next stop? Northern leaders and backbench Conservative MPs have criticised the Government’s backtracking, while the FT has estimated that the project’s total cost may now reach £91bn, up from the £33bn originally budgeted for the project in 2011. Writing in the Evening Standard, editor Dylan Jones recommends that the Government ‘cut its losses and run’.
What’s the final destination? This whole saga is causing enormous collateral damage. To the UK’s reputation for being incapable of managing major infrastructure projects. To public confidence in future major schemes. To the private sector, depending on HS2 to unlock major new development opportunities. With so much political uncertainty and a General Election still over a year away, the chances are there’s a lot more upheaval with HS2 yet to come down the line.
RENTERS REFORM RESCINDED?
BACK TO SQUARE ZERO: It was reported on Thursday that the Renters Reform Bill is ‘on ice’, over four years since the Government first committed to bring forward legislation.
Whipping Posts: Despite being introduced to the Commons in May, reports suggest that the delays are a result of ‘vested interests’ in the whips’ office, where apparently five of 16 whips are landlords.
More past the post? There’s also some chatter that there have been ‘concerns about the bill from day one’ within the wider Conservative Party, with some also accusing Michael Gove of failing to engage with backbenchers about their concerns.
Opportunity knocks: The Government was already running out of time to hold a 2nd Reading ahead of the King’s Speech on 7 November. With party conference season fast approaching and an Autumn Statement to squeeze in too, that doesn’t leave many sitting days for the bill to be debated.
Rayner on the attack: Newly appointed Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Angela Rayner called the so-called ‘zombie Government’ delay a ‘downright disgrace,’ before adding Labour ‘stands ready’ to make renting ‘fairer.’
Turfed Out: With time running out and the Government jettisoning or watering down complicated and controversial policy positions as the election gets nearer, might Gove’s Rental Reform Bill run into the sand?
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
Plans from Art-Invest Real Estate to deliver two commercial buildings as part of its Canada Water Dockside masterplan have been approved by Southwark Council. The two buildings of 11 and 24 storeys are comprised of 8,540 sq m and 10,720 sq m of workspace respectively.
Q Investment Partners and Hurlington Capital have announced a new joint venture to deliver a £80m purpose-built student accommodation scheme in Woolwich. Planning permission for the site was granted in April 2022 and includes delivery of 298 beds in two buildings ranging from 11-14 storeys.
Inland Homes has put the 6.2 acre former Master Brewer Motel site (also known as Hillingdon Gardens) up for sale. The site has planning permission for the delivery of over 500 homes and 13,455 sq ft of commercial space, which was granted after a lengthy planning process in 2022.
Dehenna Davison has stepped down as Levelling Up Minister, saying that her ‘chronic migraines’ have been affecting her ability to do the job. She has been replaced by Jacob Young.
Philip Glanville has resigned as Mayor of Hackney, triggering a by-election in the borough.
Lisa Commane has been appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer of the Government Property Agency.
Former Lendlease Managing Director of Sustainability & Social Impact, Europe, Paul King has been announced as the new Chief Executive of international think tank Built by Nature.
Angie Doll has been appointed as the Chief Executive of GoVia Thameslink Railway.
THE IMPACT OF WFH
LONG COVID? New data from Mastercard reveals how three years after the pandemic, London’s hospitality and leisure sector faces a new reality, posed in part by changing work patterns in central London.
City blues: Spending on dining out in Canary Wharf and the City has seen a marked decline. Pre-pandemic, the capital’s financial districts accounted for 20.1% of total London spending. This share has shrunk to 16.6% working from home continues.
What happy hour? The opportunity for catching up with colleagues in-person over a shorter office-bound week has seen overall spending rise by 10% during ‘happy hours’ after work.
Posh nosh: Mayfair’s fine dining has done little to tempt punters back, seeing a 1.3 percentage point decline in share of spending levels – the steepest drop in spending for a single London postcode.
Tourists to the rescue: Despite the West End and Whitehall having seen their share of spending declining by 4 and 1.5 percentage points respectively, improved performance at the weekends has helped make up for this, with the West End taking a quarter of all London’s night-time restaurant spending.
A new challenger? Unsurprisingly, as office-based workers are coming into central London on fewer days than before, residential areas in south-east London such as Greenwich and Dulwich have seen increases in their share of London’s restaurant spending, as have the trendy hubs of Tooting, Islington and Camden Town.
The taste of change: The ripples of the pandemic continue to challenge what Londoners perceive as the ‘new normal’ and these figures certainly indicate that the capital’s businesses will also still be adapting to post-pandemic trends. We have made significant progress since the lockdowns of previous years, but what will these changes mean for the fabric of the city in the long run?
AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK
MANHATTAN TRANSFER: The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has swapped London for New York this week, with a series of meetings and events promoting London as a location for business investment and for tourism, as well as championing the Mayor’s environmental credentials. Khan, in his capacity as both Mayor and Chair of the C40 group of world cities, was invited to take part in a prestigious UN General Assembly Climate Ambition Summit.
Harlem Shuffle: Khan energetically hit the airwaves to bang the drum for London, revealing he’d foregone a limo to instead pound the New York sidewalks to get to his events.
Caught between the moon and New York City? Not everyone is happy. His critics have attacked Khan’s visit, pointing to his jetting over the pond and accusing him of climate hypocrisy. But the fact is that for mayors of all colours part of their job is to promote the city abroad, just as Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson did. If they don’t, they’re attacked. When they do, they’re attacked. And whoever is Mayor after next May will undoubtedly continue with overseas travel as they quickly realise how important international promotion is for London.
Start Spreading the News: Speaking of Khan’s opponents, Tory Mayoral hopeful Susan Hall gave one of her first major interviews to the Sunday Times last weekend.
Rhapsody in Blue: What should we expect from a Hall mayoralty? We didn’t find out all that much new policy wise - there’s plenty of red meat for the Tory base – vowing to stop the removal of controversial statues, cancelling the ULEZ expansion and a clamp down on criminals.
Wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep: Yet interestingly – and perhaps part of a strategy to make Hall look less Outer London and older voter focused – she talked of making London a better place for young people and laid into restrictive licensing laws, bemoaning “a capital city where you cannot get a drink at night”. Is Hall making a pitch to be the party nightlife candidate in next year’s race? We’ll see – one of the problems all mayors come up against is wishing they had more powers – and it’s no different on late night drinking and eating where control over licensing lies with local authorities.
Stayin’ Alive: Hall’s interview took place before campaign group Hope Not Hate published a slug of her historic twitter activity, including liking posts about disgraced politician Enoch Powell. Reminding voters of Hall’s past social media activity is clearly going to be a repeat tactic by her opponents during the coming campaign. Ominously perhaps for Hall, there’s still a review ongoing within the London Tory Party into the recent Mayoral candidate selection process.
The best events to see at London Design Festival, which is taking place until 24 September.
Finding out why the renaming of a Tube station for London Fashion Week has caused so much upset.
The Times’ editorial on the reform of the Met police.
For cat lovers, the London Transport Museum’s collection of posters, ads and photos featuring our feline friends.
FT on the link between building new homes and house prices
And just where in London you can find the world’s best pizza.
LCA OUT AND ABOUT
The LCA Team will be venturing far and wide over the next few weeks and we hope to see many of you on our travels! Next week, we will be at the Barbican for LREF, while the following week we will be in attendance at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, followed by Labour’s Conference in Liverpool. Do get in touch if you would like to catch up with one of the team on their travels or if there is anything LCA can do to help you at Conference.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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