While many believe our political system moves painfully slowly, it is nothing compared to the time taken to lay bricks down and build a house.
Days after the Windrush migrants’ scandal triggered a mini Cabinet reshuffle, James Brokenshire MP returned to the Cabinet to take the reins at MHCLG, becoming the sixteenth minister to hold the portfolio for housing since 2000. Just days after that, the English Local Elections was widely viewed as a bell-weather on May’s ability to control Brexit as many went to the polls for the first time since the 2017 General Election.
Within London, however, housing was widely billed as the definitive issue. London First found that 43% of those renting in London agreed that it would help them to decide how to vote in the elections. This was not surprising given that late last year Hometrack found that house prices in London are 14.5 times the earnings of an average Londoner – the highest ever on record.
More important still, Londoners cast their ballots up and down the capital in the shadow of Grenfell Tower – seen by many as epitomising the gulf between the rich and the poor in their experience of housing. And yet, defying the political punditry and emotive circumstances, the Conservatives held onto control in Kensington and Chelsea, with Labour taking just two seats in a high-turn out year.
While the Kensington and Chelsea Tories may be breathing a sigh of relief, they do so in part thanks to our short attention span and voracious appetite for news. Just last night, David Dimbelby steered the questions away from Grenfell during Question Time, despite it being held just half a mile from the site with members of Justice4Grenfell in the audience.
Simply put, our political cycles outpace the long-term planning needed to combat the housing crisis. Theresa May wants the UK to build 300,000 new homes a year. With a former lawyer and her long-term ally at the helm of MHCLG, it is hoped that Brokenshire will be the safe pair of hands needed to steer this country’s housing on a smooth course – that is for as long as he stays in office.