The challenges facing the next prime minister raise the question of who would even want the job, writes Jonathan Werran, chief executive of Localis.
If, as conservative cheerleaders themselves have characterized, the contest to lead their party by the rules laid down by William Hague is akin to the chaos of the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Races TV cartoon, there just might be. have more twists and turns on the road to member approval before the checkered flag greets the winner on September 5.
Whether Liz Truss as Penelope Pitstop can maintain her likely lead until the final lap of Rishi Sunak’s challenge as Peter Perfect in his Turbo Terrific, once the wacky race is over, the fun is well and truly over. Reality will hit as hard as one of Slag Brother’s clubs (for those unfamiliar with comic book reruns, those were the official names of the Rock and Gravel racing cavemen).
In immediate view is the crushing crisis in the cost of living, the jaws of inflation and energy security and an impending annual breakdown of health services. With regard to the end of Parliament and the expected general election of 2024 – now once again a date that lies in the choice of Prime Minister – the question of how to deliver on the existing commitments of the 2019 manifesto and make the case for ‘greater will be in a hurry.
From the legislative agenda alone, there are plenty of barnacles to safely pull out of the boat given the limited time and the profusion of bills seeking to pass through parliament. Where that might leave the Leveling and Regeneration Bill (LURB) is also worth pondering.
Testifying for Localis last month on the planning aspects of LURB, it was emphasized that while reducing geographic inequalities remain the watchword of the agenda, planning and upgrading should be the two sides of it. the same medal. The legislation as it stands has a very ambitious, almost white paper look, with its many placeholder clauses and promises of secondary legislation.
Both candidates voiced their opposition to the government’s previous policy of reaching 300,000 notional new homes a year – a figure Truss called, echoing coalition local government secretary Sir Eric Pickles, “Stalinist targets when it comes to housing,” while Sunak expressed his lack of confidence in “arbitrary, top-down numbers.”
Despite this realism, wishful thinking remains in the belief that the simple affirmation, if repeated, of a brownfields first policy and the defense of inviolable brownfield protections will naturally result in the redistribution of demand for accommodations to the Midlands and northern regions.
Realpolitik is surely rooted in the lesson learned from the Chesham & Amersham by-election defeat. As a planning bill with a leveling up, how much hostage-to-wealth housing would the next prime minister want the Lib Dems to slam around a softening southern blue wall? This is an important domestic policy agenda and something needs to be said, done and embraced in this space that abhors a vacuum.
The challenge for the next leveling secretary, says Kemi Badenoch as a likely candidate, will be different from that posed by John Major to Michael Heseltine and Chris Patten after Margaret Thatcher’s defenestration in the run-up to the 1992 election. In this scenario, there was the toxic poll tax or community charge to be sorted out and turned into council tax – to the levels of which we remain stubbornly attached three decades later.
There’s not so much a failed program to fix as an as-yet-unformed program in the public eye to prove. Ministers’ failure to align last year’s spending review with the White Paper and leveling legislation may have made it harder than it needs to be to manifest real evidence on the footprint la wider.
This is not to deny that various pots of funding have been successfully allocated and distributed to restore the pride in places that have had the courage to win. But, as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the South East found, the term carries political risks in southern heartlands that will require corrective action before the end of the political cycle.
And back in Stoke-on-Trent, the city set as the national litmus test for the upgrade and which has received £100million in funding for the cause, council leader Abi Brown (Con) prevailed on the two candidates in a letter to both Sunak and Trussto have the freedom to deconcentrate the governance of transport from the grip of “large, often regional monolithic organizations”.
Cllr Brown also called on both candidates to commit to the “long-promised review of local government funding that reflects real needs in all locations” to deal with inflation, among other issues. Local government finance reform unlocks most of the upgrade program, but it doesn’t deliver the retail offering to bettors when it comes to putting crosses on ballots.
So, for lack of time, political capital, money and goodwill against domestic headwinds, not to mention international tensions, the overriding question is who would want to be prime minister under these circumstances as much as who wants to be. It’s almost as if you can hear Muttley cackling maniacally, noises coming from The Mean Machine parked by the side of the road.