If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… if only.
Rather a ‘dithering’ prime minister, as Boris Johnson put it in his resignation speech, of course, than “Putin’s poodle”, as Donald Trump was branded by the Daily Mirror after his disastrous summit in Helsinki. But really, there’s not much to recommend politicians of any hue or nationality at the moment, is there?
And ominously, the chaotic, incoherent and obstructive politics (if that word can be used) playing out on the global stage thanks to Brexit and Trump also seem to have set the tone for what’s happening on the national and local stage.
As we report this week, political interference – coupled with the inevitable anti-property campaigning – has influenced a major portfolio sale and torpedoed an important development joint venture. Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust’s decision to pull out of the running for the £1.5bn Network Rail arches portfolio is not in itself catastrophic – four parties remain in the process – but it does not bode well when the move is said to have been prompted by fears that the process could descend into “a political bun fight”.
Depressingly, it probably will. What’s sad is that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have backed Guardians of the Arches’ opposition to the sale for utterly spurious, but no doubt crowd-pleasing, reasons.
In their shockingly simplistic ‘property people bad, local people good’ world view, anybody who comes in and tries to redevelop or spruce up the arches, and dares to put up rents in the process, is inherently evil, the “unacceptable face of capitalism” guilty of “killing SMEs”. What if those rents need to be put up because they are too low at the moment? What if better SMEs could be attracted? What if the ‘guardians’ – tenants of some of the arches – could make more money under a new landlord?
The sad thing is that we may never know. The opposition isn’t going to suddenly stop now one bidder has pulled out – it is probably going to continue mounting – and who knows what the knock-on effect will be on the four that remain in the process? You would imagine they’re considering their options at the moment. Even if the portfolio is sold, the buyer is likely to face a long and protracted battle to get any redevelopment they might be considering off the ground.
At least there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Not so for Lendlease in Haringey. The writing was on the wall for its £4bn joint venture with Haringey Council in January when council leader Claire Kober stepped down following strong opposition to the development plans from hard-left group Momentum, supported once again by the Labour Party.
This time the arguments were not just spurious, they were totally beyond the pale, with opponents accusing the council of using the Haringey Development Vehicle to “socially cleanse” and even “ethnically cleanse” the area. Actually, what the JV had wanted to do was develop more than 6,000 homes over the next 20 years in a plan that was reportedly widely supported by local residents.
I don’t fancy Haringey’s chances of delivering that sort of volume without demolishing some of the social housing, the key bone of contention for Momentum.
Neither do I fancy the chances of other potentially transformative property projects getting off the ground in such an anti-property climate.