The incomparable Douglas Adams, much-missed author and satirist, died 22 years ago this week. The passing years have not blunted his many sharp insights. Take, for example, his view of the political animal, outlined in the fourth Hitchhikers book, when the dialogue turns to an unhappy democracy of humans ruled over by untrustworthy lizards. 

Lem Bingley

Lem Bingley

Hapless hero Arthur Dent asks why, in a democracy, people don’t get rid of the lizards. “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in,” Ford Prefect replies, perfectly reasonably. 

I’m reminded of this witticism in part by the recent local election results, which delivered a drubbing to the Conservative Party at the more severe end of expectations, plus a boost for Labour at the low end of its particular hopes, with Lib Dems and independents among the surprised beneficiaries.

Can we now expect political animals at the top of each party to react well, and redouble their quiet devotion to a sense of civic duty? Or will they act like self-interested lizards? One suspects the latter. Patterns of local election voting will be grasped by the Tories as a handy map of where short-term actions (not bribes, obviously) need to be urgently applied.

Not much good will come of this for the property sector, I fear, though opinions will, of course, differ. Take the Help to Buy policy, recently scrapped and apparently now poised for a vote-winning comeback, described by different thinkers as a “massive pro” and as a “criminal” blunder in our analysis this week.

Vote-winning rabbits are sure to emerge from those autumn statements and Budgets that lie ahead before the current parliament is dissolved, no later than 17 December next year. I’m now imagining a two-circle Venn diagram with “short-term Tory vote winners” in one loop and “genuinely helpful for the property sector” in the other. It has quite a small overlap. Do let me know if you can think of anything – besides Help to Buy – that might belong in both circles.

As we traverse the next 18 months, we could, of course, get our own house in order. Whatever colour of government lies ahead, it would be helpful to speak to it clearly, with one voice, once new ministers are installed.

The joining up of the British Property Federation (BPF) and the UK PropTech Association is a good first step, but there is much more to do.

Former BPF chief Liz Peace recently gave a speech about the “flaky” standing of our sector, noting that more than four in 10 MPs lack awareness of what property firms do aside from residential, with the general public just as clueless.

Peace said: “Building a reputation that engenders trust in our industry is very necessary, and arguably more so for us than for, say, a manufacturer of baked beans. But despite our best efforts over the last 20 years, we still have a long way to go.

“We need a better-co-ordinated industry prepared to put some welly – and cash – behind a new concerted approach.”

We don’t know when the next election will be, but the clock is ticking. As an industry, we should get ready and know what we want, from whichever type of lizard takes over.