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The lay of the land in the wake of the election

Reflections

Entering its first full week in power, the new Labour government has hit the ground running with a range of announcements which will have a widespread impact on our sector.

Rachel Reeves has confirmed mandatory housing targets  – overseen by Angela Rayner in her new role as housing secretary – would “accelerate stalled housing sites” across the country.

That bold (some might say overly ambitious) target will see 1.5 million homes built over the next five years, the delivery of which will be reliant on the private sector. 

As the dust settles on the week that was, Meeting Place’s regional directors assess the lay of the land across the country and what Labour’s slew of announcements could mean for the sector.

Helen Goral – Midlands & North:

With the Conservatives across the UK seeing their worst election results in modern electoral history, there has been little respite for them in the North West. Liverpool’s red streak has spread across Merseyside, Greater Manchester has no Conservative representation, and Fylde is the last remaining blue stronghold in Lancashire. The Labour gain in Macclesfield – which has been Conservative since 1918 – is further evidence of this historic election result. 

Although the result was momentous, the scale of the housing challenge now facing Keir Starmer’s new government should not be underestimated. Before building homes, in the long-term, Labour will need to reinforce the red wall it has rebuilt. In the short term, the development industry has reacted with hope and encouragement to last night’s results – however, we’ll have to wait and see if this renewed sector optimism continues as Labour delivers on its commitment to building much-needed homes – and how the private sector can support in this delivery. 

Freddie Palmer – South West:

Labour made high-profile gains in Somerset, having defeated former Cabinet Ministers Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg, and has returned to prominence in Cornwall, Plymouth, Swindon, Stroud, the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. The big story for the region is the return of Liberal Democrats to vast swathes of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire. 

The noise you can hear is emboldened Liberal Democrats sharpening their pitchforks to oppose Labour’s development revolution. With more than 70 MPs nationally and a concentration of them down here, the party is more relevant than they have been for years. 

One of the most heartbreaking but, in some ways, faith-restoring moments was the Green’s victory in Bristol Central. Carla Denyer’s acceptance speech paid a moving tribute to Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire, who in turn, acknowledged how hard she knew Carla would work for the city. The Greens – who took control of Bristol City Council in May – came second in the other four Bristol seats. Bristol, for now at least, is very much a Green outpost.

As Labour begins to detail exactly how it’s going to build the homes and infrastructure we need – within Kier’s 100-day plan – demonstrating support for this will be crucial to ensure the Liberal Democrats’ role as a thorn in Labour’s side does not dig too deep. 

Jonathan Simpson MBE – London: 

Labour strategists in the capital will be starting the week on a cheery note, in a city that now has a London Labour Prime Minister, Mayor and a swathe of MPs. Most noticeable will be the historic gain for Rachel Blake who gained the City of London and Westminster, becoming the first-ever Labour MP to represent the heart of the capital.

Whilst it was undoubtedly an appalling night for the Conservatives across the nation, there will be some relief that key figures including Chris Philp, Iain Duncan Smith and Bob Blackman retained their seats.  Liberal Democrats will no doubt have celebrated a Grand Slam as results came in, as they won back the South West London seats – especially in Wimbledon.

Joel Fayers – East of England: 

Well, you put your Nigel Farage in, Liz Truss out, shake it all together and you’ve got yourself an ideological Jackson Pollock across the Eastern region! The Reform vote, driven in part by national issues like immigration and taxes – but amplified by broad apathy for the main parties – proved a real thorn in the side for the Conservatives, who were already well on the way to defeat along the coast and in agri-heavy constituencies.

Clacton, Great Yarmouth and Basildon South & East Thurrock all elected Reform MPs. Likewise, Labour picked up historic wins in true-blue Hertfordshire and even as far as Bury St Edmunds – where No10 chief Will Tanner squandered a mammoth majority. Moreover, the Greens followed up their local government successes in Suffolk with a new MP elected to Waveney Valley, whilst the Lib Dems won a doughnut of seats around Cambridge and the city of Chelmsford. 

A key focus for Reform and the Greens has been the supposed under-delivery of infrastructure to accommodate growth, something Labour has also picked up on in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Is the East, therefore, a great test bed for Labour’s new towns and grey belt development, or a return to regional/strategic planning?  

Joseph Baum – South East:  

Both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats built on the gains made in last year’s local elections in the South East. As a result, they put a huge dent into the region’s long-term Conservative dominance.  

The Conservatives were wiped out in Oxfordshire and faced heavy defeats in Buckinghamshire, with the Liberal Democrats notably gaining David Cameron’s old seat of Witney and Boris Johnson’s old seat in Henley. On the theme of former Prime Ministers, the Liberal Democrats also gained Maidenhead, where Theresa May had stood down before the election.

Windsor was the only seat where the Conservatives held on in the rest of Berkshire. Further south, some seats were more resilient, with former cabinet ministers Suella Braverman and Kit Malthouse holding on, but Ranil Jayawardena in North-East Hampshire was a surprise loss to the Liberal Democrats.

As expected, the Lib Dems pulled off a major victory in Winchester, achieving a 13k majority and picked up seats in Surrey and Sussex, although the now former Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP surprisingly held on. Labour gained ten seats from the Conservatives in Kent, performing most strongly in coastal seats – some of which they didn’t even win in 1997, with a helping hand from Reform UK.

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