The new cabinet-level ministers, including Esther McVey, are signed up to the coalition's welfare reforms, as steered by Iain Duncan Smith. Photo: Getty
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The new Cabinet ministers are divided on the EU and gay rights

Cameron's new group of ministers agree with his policies on welfare, education and health, but have mixed voting records on the EU and gay rights.

Reaction to yesterday’s reshuffle largely focused on how far it was a “purge of the middle-aged men” – as the Daily Mail put it.

On Monday night we reported on how many of the old guard of the Tory party would be moved on. In the end, eight white, male ministers aged between 53 and 74 departed.

David Cameron replaced this group by giving seven MPs the right to attend Cabinet, and promoted a formerly peripheral minister, Nicky Morgan, to the job of Education Secretary.

We have already taken a look at how this changed the balance of women and the age of the Cabinet. It has otherwise left the number of Oxbridge-educated, private-schooled and white ministers largely unchanged.

But the reshuffle has also had an ideological impact. As we noted, Cameron has culled the Tory left. This may be incidental; he seems to have been primarily motivated by moving older ministers on.

He has nevertheless replaced the old guard with a group that is wholly signed up to the party’s core policies, if one that is clearly undecided on its biggest ideological divides.

Using voting records from TheyWorkForYou, our analysis shows that the new Cabinet-attending ministers all support the coalition’s core policies on health, education, welfare, banks and tuition fees. (A rating of zero indicates full support for the rightwing position on each issue.)

As a group, it is less clear on gay rights and Europe. Four of the group – Morgan, Truss, McVey, and Hancock – are moderately in favour of further EU integration. The others either have mixed voting records or are moderately against it.

On gay rights, only three have relatively clear positions. Hancock and Truss are strongly for gay rights and gay marriage, whereas McVey has consistently voted against equal rights. Morgan has a mixed voting record on gay rights policies, but her opposition to same-sex marriage has seen her relinquish the responsibility of implementing it; this has been handed down to Nick Boles, who has a new dual role spanning BIS and the DfE.

The PM's new Cabinet is united on the coalition’s core policies, but doesn't provide a strong consensus on the issues that have been dividing the Tory party for most of its time in government.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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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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