Labour Party Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has closed this year’s Labour Party Conference after five long days. This year there were no PR disasters – mid-speech protests, photo opportunities featuring bananas, the party leader falling in the sea – and the consensus, certainly the consensus within the party, is that it has been a success. Ed Miliband will be particularly pleased to have answered the question about whether he is an asset or liability to his party with such aplomb (for the time being anyway).
Labour has had the luxury of lambasting the Coalition without making concrete spending commitments (why risk it when the next general election is over two years away?). Significantly, the British public has now been presented with the party’s big idea of One Nation Labour and has learnt more about what this entails (please see Redwood’s Conference update). October Conference update for more information). Although Miliband’s Leader’s speech contained very little of direct relevance for the property sector, some interesting policy commitments were made elsewhere.
As mentioned in Redwood’s 2nd October Conference update, the key announcement came from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who wants to use proceeds from the sale of 4G mobile phone licences to fund a Stamp Duty holiday and the construction of 100,000 affordable homes. Balls also attacked the cumbersome planning system and delays in bringing forward new infrastructure in particular. The announcement that Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sir John Armitt, will lead a review into the long-term infrastructure needs of the country grabbed attention.
Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn has said Labour will oppose “outrageously centralising” plans to give the Planning Inspectorate control of local decision-making where local authorities underperform (despite acknowledging discontent about regional planning taking power away from local authorities under Labour). He also said Labour opposes proposals to enable appeals against affordable housing obligations contained within S106 agreements.
At this stage of the electoral cycle the Labour Party is far more certain about what it doesn’t like than what it does and comments by party strategist Lord Adonis about city regions are representative. More devolution is required, he said, but as with much of the Conference, the nature of the solution and accompanying policy prescriptions proved elusive.
Next week the Conservative Party Conference will take place in Birmingham. Although the Conservative’s have the advantage of being able to respond to Labour and the Liberal Democrats – expect fearsome criticism of Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour idea – the party has enough problems of its own, as the opinion polls show. There should be plenty of interest next week for the property sector and Redwood will keep you updated throughout.