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The housing market’s trajectory lies in Boris Johnson’s fate

Bob Hunt

Bob Hunt

17 January 2022
Anyone interested in politics, or merely interested in the theatre of politics, was undoubtedly tuned into Prime Minister’s Questions on 12 January as Boris Johnson provided his apology/non-apology regarding the work meeting/social gathering/non-party that took place on 20 May 2020.
 
Regardless of your political affiliations, your willingness or otherwise to accept what Johnson said, your take on what the ‘independent’ report by Sue Gray will say and the potential consequences, these exchanges matter and they are likely to grow in importance as the weeks advance. 

Calls for Johnson’s resignation are likely to grow if the report is as damning as some people believe (and want) it to be, and what happens next will clearly have consequences not just for the individuals involved but the entire country, including the housing and mortgage market sectors. 

You don’t really need to be a student of politics to know that the Conservative Party tends to be a ruthless machine when it comes to determining whether its leaders have passed their sell-by or election-winning date and acting on that belief.  

It’s a relatively small number of MP letters required – 54 – to trigger a no confidence vote, which if lost, triggers a leadership election in which the incumbent cannot stand. 

In those circumstances, the Conservatives will have a new leader and the country will have a new prime minister, and with such occurrences we will also have a new cabinet which, if recent history is anything to go by, means we get a new housing secretary. 

While Michael Gove doesn’t appear backward in coming forward when it comes to matters around housing – witness the recent announcements on cladding and the consultation on commonhold – one might suspect he might have higher offices of state in mind for his future, perhaps even the top job itself. 

If Gove exits his department which doesn’t just cover off housing, but levelling up and communities as well, then a new broom might want to sweep clean again. It will be the same party in power, but the momentum might shift.  

Transaction speed focus 
Over the course of the last few years, I’m aware of a growing momentum in that department to support much-needed measures to speed up the home buying and selling process, which I think we all know can be subject to horrendous delays resulting in millions of pounds being wasted. 

Now, of course, civil servants tend to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in these areas and so it will remain the case, but a minister can undoubtedly come in with different priorities and a different focus can emerge. 

And, of course, those very same civil servants can move jobs. I read recently that one of the driving forces of the government in this area, civil servant Matt Prior, is moving to focus on leasehold instead of the changes around home buying and selling.  

That may not shift the dial, but it has the potential to. And, of course, we’ve not even contemplated other scenarios playing out. 

Bigger changes  
New prime ministers without mandates are often warned to seek them at the earliest juncture – a General Election could return them emboldened or it could mean a completely different party (or selection of parties) making up the government. That would mean considerable change.

And Johnson might be left untouched, but again it depends on how he feels the status quo is delivering for him and his party, just a couple of years before the next election has to be called. More cabinet reshuffles perhaps, a different approach and focus, a belief that policy priorities have to change.  

Much like regulation never stops, neither does politics. We will all be impacted and affected by what happens at Westminster over the coming weeks and months and it’s important that we continue to fight our corner effectively to ensure we get the change we want to see and that this market remains the driving force it continues to be.  

Regardless of who is resident at Number 10. 

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