Oh dear. It must all have seemed much more straightforward in 2012, when Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng were writing Britannia Unchained – the libertarian’s manifesto for Britain and which made the case that lower taxes and deregulation would deliver growth, a better economy and a better quality of life.

Fast forward ten years and, as Prime Minister and Chancellor, they took the view that this was their chance to implement what they had spent their whole political lives arguing for, that they did not have much time to make the changes they wanted and that it was the right response to an incipient recession.

Well, the markets have begged to differ and Truss has had to backtrack on the most controversial element of the recent mini-budget – the abolition of the 45p tax rate. Whether the market reaction was caused by a negative reaction to particular policies or just a general loss of confidence, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have egg on their face at best and, at worst, will see their careers at the top curtailed by angry and anxious Conservative MPs.

The arrival of a new Government with different priorities always prompts questions about what political change means for the development industry. Given what has happened in the past week I can write about what I believe Liz Truss would like to do – but whether or not she will retain the political authority and capital to do it is another matter.

Planning reform

Radical Economic Reform is what Liz Truss is about. It is what gets her out of bed in the morning and planning has to play a major part in the change she wants to deliver.

The recent ‘fiscal event’ was followed by a promise from the Chancellor that there will be more and there were hints at planning reform. He has already announced investment zones where there are liberalised planning rules to drive investment, employment and housing delivery. These areas will respond to the libertarian argument that stripping away rules and regulations frees up entrepreneurialism and enterprise that will deliver growth.

Beyond this, Truss’s past statements and actions suggest an interesting cocktail of priorities. She has described top-down housebuilding targets as “Stalinist” and “Whitehall inspired” and has stated that “we should be building up more”, “making more of the space that we have” and that she is a “supporter of allowing incremental expansion of villages rather than these massive targets that land on the back of local councils”. She has also hinted that she might reduce the powers of the Planning Inspectorate stating that “there is not enough power in local hands at the moment”.

According to Rory Stewart, former Tory MP, Truss believes that the Green Belt gets in the way of economic growth – indicating that, if all other things were equal, it would be in her sights as the next stage of her radical economic reform agenda.

All of the above are consistent with a libertarian’s outlook, though one wonders how they might fare when they meet reality. Glance at any local paper in the Home Counties and you’ll see a story about communities resisting development. There are already reports on local concern about changes to planning rules in the new investment zones – radical planning reform will not be straightforward. The pressure on Tory MPs in these seats will be immense.

Labour’s emerging policy platform

For the first time in many years the industry needs to look carefully at what Labour’s proposed reforms are. The Labour Party Conference went well for Kier Starmer and the Party’s 33-point poll lead has certainly put a spring in his step. Housing is a major issue for large swathes of Labour’s membership. Many young activists spoke at conference fringe meetings about how they would never be able to get a foot on the housing ladder. With feelings so strong it is not hard to see how the issue will be kept firmly on the agenda of a future Labour Government.

During his conference speech Kier Starmer set out his ambition for the UK to become a home-owning nation with 70% of people owning their own home. Behind this commitment lies an appreciation that the ‘Red Wall’ seats currently held by the Conservatives have high proportions of owner-occupiers. There is also a growing clamour from the tail end of Millennial generation and the older cohort of Generation Z that the current issues with housing affordability cannot continue.

A final point: Until recently it seemed as though the most likely alternative to the Conservatives at a general election was an anti-Tory coalition comprising Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and maybe some of the other, smaller parties. In this scenario, Starmer would have had to keep onside his Lib Dem coalition allies, who have had a number of successes against the Conservatives in the Home Counties by fighting on an anti-development platform. A 33-point lead opens up the possibility that Starmer may not have this constraint and could form a Labour-only Government – free from any concerns by middle England about the Green Belt.

For now, though, we have a Conservative, libertarian Prime Minister with strong views but on the ‘back foot’ and politically weakened. We await with interest what the next stage of her radical reforms are – but whether or not she can implement them is another matter.