David Miliband to guest-edit next week's New Statesman

Issue to focus on shifts in world power.

A special issue featuring essays, columns and interviews ­— with
Hillary Clinton, Kevin Rudd, Richard Branson, Michael Semple interview with Taliban leader, Tony Blair, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Russell Brand, Ed Miliband, David Walliams, Jonathan Coe, Jo Brand, Ozwald Boateng and many others

For this 80-page edition, David Miliband has commissioned a series of articles around the theme of shifts in world power.

David Miliband said:

“For many years I have wanted to tell New Statesman readers what really matters — so when Jason Cowley asked me to guest-edit an issue it was a challenge I couldn’t resist!

“This is an extraordinary time of economic and political change around the world that is immensely challenging for the west and for the left. So I have produced an issue that tries to explain the big drivers of change in the world, and how the west and the left should react.

“The issue reflects what I care about — from South Shields to human rights to what makes me smile or laugh. And I have tried to produce an issue that is passionate without shouting and uses reason without being technocratic.”

Jason Cowley, editor of the New Statesman, said:

“I asked David to guest-edit because we wanted to produce an issue exploring the great challenges facing the world in what is a period of profound and uneasy transition as power shifts from west to east and the old European social-democratic model becomes unsustainable. As a former foreign secretary and one of our most intellectually capable politicians, he was ideally placed to gather together leading thinkers and politicians in one issue of the New Statesman.

“Our guest-edited issues have proved hugely popular with our readers as well as being great journalistic successes. This one will be no different.”

The issue, cover-dated 16 July, will be on sale in London on Thursday 12 July and in the rest of the country from Friday 13 July. International buyers can obtain copies on our website at www.newstatesman.com.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

David Miliband is the New Statesman’s seventh guest editor, after Alastair Campbell, Ken Livingstone, Melvyn Bragg, Jemima Khan, Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins.

Exclusives:

Melvyn Bragg’s guest edit on 11 October 2010 featured “Last Letter”, a newly discovered, previously unpublished poem by Ted Hughes about the night that his wife Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

Jemima Khan’s guest edit (11 April 2011) featured her agenda-setting interview with the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – in which he declared “I’m not a punchbag” – as well as Hugh Grant’s undercover interview with a former News of the World executive which became a worldwide media sensation.

Rowan Williams’s guest edit on 13 June 2011 dominated the news agenda for several days in response to his bold leader article criticising the coalition. He wrote, "We are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted.”

Richard Dawkins’s guest edit (19 December 2011) contained the last interview with the writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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