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Why the Tories mustn't give in to the Nimbys

15 May 2021

12:35 AM

15 May 2021

12:35 AM

A 15-point YouGov poll lead and last week’s election performance suggests that things look good for the Tories in England. But some results are still causing concern in Tory ranks. In Cambridgeshire, the party lost control of the county council; in Oxfordshire, the Tory council leader lost his seat; and the Conservatives had their majority on Surrey County Council slashed.

Some Tories are quick to point the finger at proposed developments for these losses, as I say in the Times today. They argue that a radical shake-up of the planning system, such as the one the government is proposing, will make this problem far worse. They fear this could put parliamentary seats across the southeast in danger. It’s the classic problem of reform: those who will benefit are not (yet) in place to vote for you, but those who’d lose out are.


Southern Tories face anger from those who can’t afford to get on the housing ladder and from those worried about development. In anything but the short term though, the former group – those who want to own their own home, but can’t – are the bigger threat to the Tory majority.

It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of home ownership to the Tories’ electoral coalition: 86 per cent of their seats have higher than average levels of home ownership. A failure to enact proper planning reform for fear of the reaction in the shires would be one of the most shortsighted decisions the Tory party could take.

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