I’ve voted Conservative all my life largely because I don’t believe governments run things well – quite the opposite; most nationalised industries were effectively bankrupt before they were privatised. 

Steve Norris

Steve Norris

I don’t want the government telling me how to run my life because I think I know what’s best for me and my family and I don’t believe any government does.

I believe in equality of opportunity that encourages entrepreneurs and risk-takers and recognises that some will always do better than others.

I believe the role of the state is to care for those who cannot care for themselves and to encourage all who can to stand on their own two feet.

I believe we should all follow Charles Kingsley’s excellent maxim: do as you would be done by. I also believe in devolution; I don’t believe in placing too much power in the hands of a few.

There is a clear absence of leadership and a smell of making it up as we go along

And my problem right now is I don’t see any political party that seems to believe what I believe. I don’t expect Labour to agree about nationalisation, although the evidence is as plain as the nose on your face.

Nor do I believe excessive attacks on higher earners actually work. In a global world, all they do is drive the really wealthy away from our shores and dump the greatest burden on the middle class.

Boris Johnson

Source: Shutterstock/ Alexandros Michailidis

Johnson: seen less and less since his own brush with coronavirus

But the trouble is that the way this nominally Conservative government is headed, I’m not sure I know what it believes.

On the economy, we are spending like the proverbial drunken sailor. On the virus, we lurch from one issue to the next so that Michael Gove clearly believes face masks are unnecessary in shops while within hours the government of which he is allegedly a key member requires them by law – a law that, incidentally, is patently unenforceable. One day you can take a European holiday, and the next you have to quarantine for a fortnight if you do.

There is a growing drift to nannyism – the antithesis of Conservatism – and, on the evidence in London, a government willing to dismantle the mayoralty simply because they dislike its current incumbent.

Leadership void

There is a clear absence of leadership and a smell of making it up as we go along. Boris was undoubtedly an effective cheerleader when the nation needed cheering up.

He got Brexit done and won a great majority for his party. But since, and particularly after his own brush with Covid, he has been seen less and less and when he does appear, says little of any consequence.

This affects all of us involved in property. Landlords have been forced to be bankers, but with the difference that tenants took an overdraft without asking or making any arrangements to repay.

The new rules on permitted development turn out to be mired in bureaucracy. The reformed Use Classes Order poses as many questions as it answers. It’s fine to say that as retail outlets decline they can be converted into residential, but the devil as ever is in the detail, and that detail is sorely lacking.

The cut in stamp duty is great for buyers up to £500,000 but does nothing of any significance to stimulate the market in senior managerial mobility when the tax entirely out of capital to buy a house for £2m is a whopping £138,750. And free of stamp duty or not, if you no longer have a job or can see redundancy looming, you’re probably not going to be in the homes market for many months yet.

There are those who say life post-virus will never be the same again. I disagree. This too shall pass, to quote the ancient Persian adage. But I see a government that is going to have to up its game fast if it wants to be in power as well as office in 2024.

Steve Norris is chairman of Soho Estates and This Land