Will 'overdevelopment' become the political hot potato?
Conservative associations across the country will be licking their wounds after the recent local elections, trying to figure out just what led to the loss of over 1300 councillors.
The obvious culprit is Brexit. National coverage of the locals has rightly pointed to Theresa May's handlining of Brexit as a key explainer of the result. And, certainly, Conservative activists’ frustration over our departure from the European Union (or lack thereof) was only exacerbated by having to defend the party’s record on the doorstep. This perhaps may explain why Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are soaring in the national polling – the message of the great ‘Brexit betrayal’ may prove to be even more tempting than UKIP’s original call for a referendum.
Nevertheless, local associations will know all too well there was another current which contributed to the night’s losses; perceived overdevelopment. While most the national coverage of has focused on Brexit, much of the messaging of the Liberal Democrat and Independent candidates who made big strides this year did not focus on Brexit, but development. This was true of the winners in Windsor and Maidenhead, South Oxfordshire, Guildford and Wokingham. The power of this disgruntlement is made clear in a recent ‘megapoll’ of 10,000 people conducted by the Conservative Think Tank Onwards which showed that further building on the green belt “would be the most unpopular housing pledge the Conservatives could take into an election, even with young people” – while promising to protect the Green Belt came out as the best vote winner.
We should watch this carefully. This election cycle may well be the one in which ‘overdevelopment’ becomes a real political hot potato.
Joseph Palasz - Account Executive