The days of the Conservative-Labour political duopoly, a stranglehold in some ways even tighter than that of the Democrats and Republicans in contemporary American politics, has come and gone. The currents have shifted, perhaps permanently, and as we move towards the 2015 General Election on 7 May, the national political context is more fractured and unpredictable than it has been for many decades.
A lot can change between now and 7 May but it seems unlikely that either of the two big parties will be able to win more than half the seats in the House of Commons (326) required to form the next government. The question seems not to be ‘will there be another hung parliament?’, but rather ‘what form could another coalition take, if there is no appetite for a minority government?’. Labour could lose the popular vote but win more seats than the Conservatives and ally with the minor parties or party. Will Labour have no choice but to turn to the SNP, the thinned-out Liberal Democrats and others that are more naturally inclined to support them than the Conservatives, in order to gain power? In the former scenario, will the door to the never-endum (the ongoing Scottish independence discussion post-referendum) be kicked off its hinges? Polling has started to show a strengthening of support for the Conservatives however and their ‘long-term economic plan’ narrative has gained traction.
For our industry, while root and branch reform of the planning system is off the agenda, housing supply and affordability are playing an important role in the campaign. This is particularly so in London, where any parliamentary candidate stuck into canvassing will tell you that the over-heated housing market is one of the, if not the, main issues on the doorstep.
All of the parties are taking a punt on solutions, whether it’s the Conservative’s Starter Homes initiative, Labour’s pledge to deliver 200,000 new homes each year by 2020, the Liberal Democrat’s even higher target or UKIP’s radical idea of planning application referenda, polling shows the undisputable importance of these issues to voters. This, in the eyes of many, is an indication of the failure of successive governments to make good on pledges about delivering new homes and also a willingness to prioritise the interests of older home-owners who are far more likely to vote, over those of younger people who are as yet unable to get a foot on the housing ladder.
It’s going to be a fascinating contest.