The great and the good of the property industry gathered at City Hall for the annual LandAid Debate, which was held in the style of BBC Question Time and chaired by Sarah Montagu from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. A stellar line-up drew in the crowds, with Baroness Shirley Williams, Labour’s Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Steven Norris MP of the Conservatives and Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green Party making their voices heard.
Certain issues, the Mansion Tax for example, sparked heated debate. Rt Hon Alan Johnson, unsurprisingly supportive of the Tax, was on the receiving end of strong criticism from Steven Norris. Baroness Williams, meanwhile, emphasised her disdain for non-dom property investors who have pushed up London property prices and created ‘ghost towns’ in Hampstead and Knightsbridge.
Other issues revealed close alignment amongst the four parties, including the hot topic of building on Green Belt. Given the far-reaching implications of the housing crisis and the impact it is having on society, it is somewhat surprising that this issue was not given more weight in the debate. All four panellists were quick to agree that the green belt should not be built on, even though there was some ambiguity on the true definitions of Green Belt in planning terms.
Surely the most hotly debated question of the night was ‘which parties would you be prepared to go into coalition with and which ones would you not unite with?’ The response was rather surprising. Alan Johnson pointed out that contrary to popular opinion, Labour and the SNP could never form a coalition as they fundamentally differ on how the UK should be formed, with Labour supporting The Union and the SNP wanting Scottish independence. At the same time, Jenny Jones quashed rumours of a Labour-Green Party coalition by explaining that the Greens could never condone Labour’s nuclear programme.
For Redwood’s long-standing pro-bono client, this is the biggest event of the year. Certainly it was a roaring success, not only for the very good arguments raised by all four panellists but also for the strong media coverage and importantly, money raised for the property industry’s charity.
With the two themes of the debate being the upcoming election and the property industry, the quote of the night probably came from Lucian Cook of Savills, lead sponsor of the event. Regarding the upcoming General Election he said this: “this year politicians won’t be kissing babies, it’ll be cement mixers”.