This week Theresa May marked her 100th day in power.
We’ve seen already a very clear departure from the Cameron/Osborne way of government, including on policy and approach.
May has confidently positioned herself as a Prime Minister that advocates ‘substance over style’. She has already broken away from several policy agendas and although the political and economic landscape continues to be dominated by Brexit, there are still some issues that refuse to go away regardless of who is at the top.
The Prime Minister was accused of dithering over a new runway for London and the south east after it was announced this week that a final decision will not be revealed for a further 18 months. She has shown before (Hinkley Point) she is not afraid to take her time and make the right call.
This move to delay a Heathrow decision is a tad surprising. However, could it be that May is simply trying to minimise the scope for judicial review by allowing for this extended consultation period? If so, delaying the final decision at this stage could actually speed up the overall process, whilst simultaneously reaffirming support for the choice of Heathrow over Gatwick.
Let’s hope a decision is made sooner rather than later. We need to get going on investing in and building new and much-needed infrastructure.
May’s stance on devolution in England, and in particular on Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse, was initially cloudy. She has not taken to the Northern Powerhouse push with as much enthusiasm previously shown by Osborne – and given that the project was the preceding chancellor’s brainchild, this is perhaps unsurprising.
This ‘wobble’ on the Northern Powerhouse may not have just been about May wishing to distance herself from Osborne’s legacy. Her announcement in August of a national ‘industrial strategy’ sought to ensure future focus is not just centred on the north-west – a seemingly sensible move given that, following the financial crisis, areas of decline include Northern Ireland and the south-west. The blueprint is in place, May will now need to ensure the details are worked up to the advantage of key UK cities like Manchester.
During the short-lived Conservative leadership contest, May placed housebuilding at the forefront of her economic policy agenda. Fortunately, May has not side-stepped the issue. The announcement of an injection of extra cash into the £3bn Home Building Fund is to be applauded, as is the continued rhetoric by May’s administration on the necessity to build more homes.
Yes, the Conservatives are still shackled to the party ideology of protecting the Green Belt but, under May’s premiership, there seems to be a subtle departure from unequivocally adhering to the NIMBY stance.
The desire to resolve the housing crisis is undoubtedly there. However, May now needs to ensure that joined-up thinking between national government, local government and the property industry is achieved and more radical solutions are found to ensure the supply of new homes can match up to demand.
Brexit is undoubtedly the topic that will define a generation and will ultimately determine how May’s time in power will be remembered. It is clearly, and rightly, a priority for the government to strike a befitting deal for the UK.
However, May now needs to work out how to bridge the deep divides that so clearly exist across the UK – as well as a Brexit Plan May’s government should also look at implementing a National Plan. A National Plan will ensure the leaders of the south-east communicate with the leaders of Scotland, the north west, the Midlands etc., it will bring about investment to our cities outside of London and will, importantly in this post-Brexit climate, encourage UK-wide cohesion and vision.