Unless a miracle happens (or a catastrophe, depending on your viewpoint), Boris Johnson will be elected as Leader by Conservative Party members, and then become Prime Minister in ten days time. What does the property industry need to think about?
First the obvious – Brexit.
Again, depending on your viewpoint, you will see Brexit as either a colossal mistake or a wonderful enlightenment. What you should know is that Team Boris will do everything in its power to take us out of the EU by halloween. Or you could believe some who say Boris is the ultimate charlatan, who will renege spectacularly on this promise.
Whatever your viewpoint, this autumn will be not just a political spectacle, but an economic decision-making point.
Second – infrastructure
Boris likes a good infrastructure project. Boris Island is a classic, as is a bridge across to Ireland, and of course the Garden Bridge (which, incidentally, he blames Sadiq for cancelling after spending more public money). As PM, some of these wild dreams might actually become a reality.
Does that mean HS2 will get the go-ahead? No, he’s promised to review that, with a final decision by December, citing a business case which is not strong enough.
Does that mean Heathrow will be scrapped in favour of his Island? No, it looks like we won’t be seeing him lying down in front of the bulldozers quite yet.
Third – Ed Lister
Lots of developers fondly remember Ed Lister, now Sir Edward, at the GLA. Sir Ed has been spending his retirement at Homes England, but he’s now fully back on board with Boris. He’s currently drawing up plans for Boris’s first 100 days (until 31 October), minutely detailing who’s doing what, when and how.
Sir Ed, who is a great friend of Thorncliffe, is a great influence on Boris, some would say for the better. Critics say Boris doesn’t do detail – but advocates say Boris doesn’t need to, because he’s got people like Sir Ed.
Fourth – stamp duty
George Osborne racked up stamp duty, and Philip Hammond kept it there. It’s safe to say that no one in Boris’s team believes in the high levels of stamp duty. It’s a very safe bet that stamp duty will come down, probably at all levels. Boris, or more likely his chosen chancellor, will have to persuade the Treasury that they’ve been wrong for the past few years, and the Laffer curve will mean they will earn more money from the tax cut, not less. It’s a bold political move for Boris to reinstate stamp duty levels to where they were before, and he’ll have to have to some political cover to do so. But he probably will.
Fifth – Help to Buy and the young
Forget Brexit – when the next election comes around, the main topic of conversation will be house prices. Why they’re so high, and why young people can’t afford them. Like Brexit, it’s a potential existential crisis for the Conservative party.
Boris is distancing himself from the Help to Buy policy – he says it creates more demand rather than adding to supply.
Expect instead him to prioritise a whole raft of measures that helps build those homes, from further planning reform, to reducing restrictions on public sector land.
Boris’s dream cabinet?
We’ll know soon who he’ll pick, but here’s an (educated) guess of some of them:
Chancellor: Sajid Javid. No longer being confused with Sadiq Khan (that’s one of his own jokes), Saj once said the government should invest £50 billion in building homes, only for Philip Hammond to knock him down.
DexEU Minister: Dom Raab. Raab knows where the skeletons lie in Brussels, and is a hard line Brexiteer.
International Trade: Steve Baker. If you think Dom Raab is hard line, wait until you meet Steve Baker.
Secretary of State for Housing: Michael Gove. This is a bold guess, but Gove likes being given hard departments, and has no fears of shaking the whole thing up. Be warned.
Health: Matt Hancock. Why change the Health Secretary now?
Foreign Secretary: Jeremy Hunt.
International Development: Liz Truss. If she doesn’t get chancellor, she’ll need to be given a good role, and this fits in with her abilities.
Chief Whip: Gavin Williamson. This is a demotion for Gavin, but he is so good as Chief Whip that he has to do the job.
BEIS: James Brokenshire. James is a supporter of Boris and needs a job if he is moved on from Housing.
Chief of Staff: Sir Ed Lister
CCHQ CEO: Peter Cruddas (of CMC Markets)
Next Week: the property industry and Jeremy Hunt. Only kidding – he has no chance of being elected as PM.