From the election booth to the Coronation Chair – an eventful Bank Holiday
The local elections already feel like they were a lifetime ago. Less than 12 hours after the final votes had been counted, all eyes had switched from leisure centres up and down the country to Westminster Abbey – very handy for the Prime Minister.
That hasn’t stopped analysis of the results taking place beyond the headlines from Friday morning. Yes, the Conservatives had a bad night, but it certainly wasn’t equally as brilliant for the other parties either.
As a former election agent and campaign organiser, I wholeheartedly believe that there is no such thing as a safe seat and that each election is different – something which can be taken away from these results. Drawing comparisons from local election results to how that could translate into a general election is always a hard logic to follow.
We likely have at least 12 months until a general election and if the past year is anything to go by, a lot can happen in that time! Looking at the campaigns in the run-up to the elections, a clear pattern emerges with local campaigns leaning heavily on the national narrative.
A lot of the local parties didn’t even publish their own manifesto which is a little odd for a local election campaign. The logic for this is simple, let the ‘chaos’ of national politics influence voters locally. Nonetheless, local issues greatly impacted the results with one issue high up the priority list – housing.
Ever since the throwaway comments from the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, about building in the greenbelt, the delivery of new homes has been in the spotlight once again. What followed was a series of Local Plan delays from local authorities up and down the country and ultimately, the scrapping of housing targets.
The perfect recipe for a scaremongering campaign… Long-term plans and politics sometimes feel like oil and water. The tough decisions needed for strategic housing allocations and local plans can get lost in the anti-development sentiment regularly seen in local news articles or community Facebook pages.
It can’t be a complete coincidence that a number of local authorities which recently approved large-scale strategic sites saw heavy losses and a change of control at the election last week. The location of new housing is an emotive subject, but the usual excuses reasons people give for not wanting a new development near them is due to a lack of investment in infrastructure, difficulty securing a GP appointment or the perceived squeeze on local school places.
Whilst S106 contributions help to offset these items to a certain degree, the general public doesn’t see it like that.
They would like to see the services, roads and improvements being delivered before new homes are built – a bit like a strategic site!?
It is not easy being the candidate or political party who supports new development but overseeing a race to the bottom with housing is not sustainable either. Several local election campaigns had the feel of a reverse auction where candidates were outbidding one another on who would prevent the most homes from being built.
This might be a short-term win at the polls, but with a country still obsessed with home ownership, this doesn’t answer one of the usual questions politicians are faced with on the doorstep – how can my child afford to live here?
Certain political parties are very happy talking about large housing delivery targets at a national level, but curiously have anti-development promises in their local election leaflets.
Until the messaging around housing changes, the short-term wins at the polls will remain preferential to the difficult conversations about the long-term housing requirements of a local area.