As UKIP prepare for an anticipated by-election victory in Clacton today – their “Krakatoa” moment, in the words of Nigel Farage – the three main political parties are pausing for breath after the party conferences.
Whether it’s struggling first-time buyers in Winchester, anxious homeowners concerned about over-development in Worcestershire, or £2million plus property owners in Wimbledon pondering a ‘Mansion Tax’, something of interest to most voters emerged from the conferences.
There can be no doubt that planning, development and particularly the delivery of new homes, will be hot topics in the campaigns leading up to next May’s General Election.
While Ed Miliband’s failure to remember key parts of his conference speech grabbed the headlines, some interesting points emerged.
Among other things, Miliband identified meeting demand for new homes as Labour’s fifth of six national priorities over the next ten years and promised to double the number of first time buyers. He said Labour “won’t let large developers sit on land” and will offer more support to smaller developers, while new towns, garden cities and suburbs could provide half a million new homes.
All this against a background of the preparation of The Lyons Housing Review and following Miliband’s previous 2013 Conference pledge to get Britain building 200,000 new homes per year by the end of the next Parliament.
While the Prime Minister’s keynote speech seemed to progress more smoothly, a rather unflattering reworking, a ‘Conference Rap’, has three and a half million views on YouTube and counting. Labour’s apparently faltering post-Conference popularity should cheer him however.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles claimed the Conservatives’ have delivered for communities across Britain by bringing forward 200,000 affordable homes, helping 53,000 families through Help to Buy and enabling 230,000 homes to be granted consent this year. London Mayor Boris Johnson, brick in hand, also claimed a range of successes in London.
The Prime Minister promised to build 100,000 starter homes during the next Parliament, which would be exempt from a range of taxes.
The Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg and his party used their gathering to get the knives out and attack their Conservative Coalition colleagues with relish.
Bold pledges included the creation of at least ten new garden cities, to build over 300,000 homes per year and there was also talk about Government taking a hands-on role in house building.
And so back to UKIP. Krakatoa may well explode in Clacton today and UKIP’s influence on the national stage appears to be growing as rapidly as a volcanic ash cloud. Their ascent continues to deeply concern the larger parties and it will be intriguing to see whether their far more radical approach to the issues mentioned – previous policy commitments include introducing local referendums on major planning decisions for instance – starts to attract more serious attention.