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AJ election survey: No love for coalition as architects back Labour

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Architects are backing Labour in next week’s general election and have blasted the coalition’s record on major built-environment policies, according to an exclusive AJ survey

Some 35 per cent of the 200 architects, students and architectural technologists who completed the online poll said they planned to vote for Ed Miliband’s party on 7 May.

The Greens and the Conservatives each picked up 18 per cent of the architect vote with the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists both taking 10 per cent.

Support for Labour has surged since the last election when, according to industry research expert the Fees Bureau, there was a huge hike in support for the Tories.

The Fees Bureau’s poll in 2010 revealed that almost a third of architects planned to vote Conservative, knocking Labour into second place on 30 per cent.

Election 2015 survey graphs

This marked a significant reversal of fortunes for the Conservatives from previous elections in 2001 and 2005, when the profession had twice plumped for Labour (34 per cent 10 years ago, according to the Fees Bureau).

Former RIBA president Jack Pringle was not surprised by the latest shift. ‘The profession, which is mainly poorly paid and interested in social endeavours, is largely centre-left leaning,’ he said. ‘After the crash, a swing away from the incumbents, who were also unpopular because of Iraq, was natural.

‘Now with no trickle-down economic benefit outside of London, it’s status quo ante [the way things were before].’

Chris Mackenzie, director at Designscape Architects in Bath, agreed. ‘Labour policies seem to be slightly more in favour of spending money in the public sector,’ he said, ‘and that would be to the advantage of many architects.’

According to the AJ poll, voters’ preferences reflected their confidence in the parties’ abilities to solve the housing crisis - the theme most prominent in architects’ minds when casting their vote.

More than a quarter of respondents named housing as highest on their priority list when deciding which way to vote - way ahead of the next contender, the NHS, which was cited by only 15 per cent - and asked which party had the best policy on housing supply, 39 per cent named Labour - four percentage points higher than those planning to vote for the party.

Election 2015 survey graphs

The Green party’s considerable success in garnering significant backing from the architectural community could, in part, be explained by respondents’ perception of which party best understands the profession.

More than a quarter named Natalie Bennett’s party as the most in tune with architects; six points shy of perceived architectural flagbearer Labour (31 per cent) but four ahead of the Conservatives (21 per cent).

Other findings from the poll suggested support for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems may have been undermined by their performance over the last five years. The survey showed a widespread perception that the coalition had performed poorly across areas impacting the built environment.

A large number of respondents rated the coalition’s record as ‘poor’ or ‘awful’ on house building (71 per cent), school building (63 per cent), climate change (65 per cent) and planning (65 per cent).

Those polled were more supportive of the coalition’s tackling of the economy, with more than a third of respondents giving the coalition a rating of ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

Several of those polled said that ‘pulling the country out of recession’ had been its biggest success.

However, in terms of the current government’s ‘biggest failures’, the answers were wide-ranging, and included the bedroom tax and cuts to welfare.

Architects also accused the coalition of ‘wrecking the NHS’, complained about it dropping the Code for Sustainable Homes, and even blamed it for closing police stations and not stopping the rise of the UK Independence Party.

One message that came through clearly was the need for any incoming government to take a genuine interest in the profession’s views and ideas.

‘Speak to us’, ‘take us seriously’ and ‘trust in us’, were just three of the comments volunteered by respondents.

Asked whether any new government should scrap the Architects’ Registration Board, just 28 per cent agreed, compared with 45 per cent who said they wanted the register kept.

Respondents said

  • ‘Policies such as right to buy and help to buy benefit a wealthier minority at the expense of the majority. Housebuilding rates have actually gone down with the introduction of these policies’
  • ‘The coalition’s biggest success has been holding on through the economic upheaval and not using the interest rates as a brake. This has allowed more companies to ride out staff/business costs, keeping more people in employment’
  • ‘The initial mood music was welcome with regard to building more homes and community input. But in reality the coalition has treated planning appallingly, forcing local government to cut staff, allowing some frankly awful housing and yet failing to significantly increase supply. Planning is supposed to be about balancing needs, but we’ve ended up with the worst of all worlds’
  • ’ NPPF has been OK. The situation isn’t worse than before, however cuts to local authorities have left planning services struggling to engage proactively. I am also concerned that planning as an obstacle to development rhetoric is too strong in government when, ultimately, it is a failure of the market to deliver development that the government, perhaps, should have procured’
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Readers' comments (2)

  • I too, am hoping that Labour will win, but hope that they will also put in place policies which ensure that future mass housebuilding will be qualified architect led, and to decent space standards (not just as an option), and that design quality is paramount.

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  • I'm not sure that the Tories give two hoots at what a couple of hundred architects think....according to Gove, architects are 'getting rich' on public money...which is actually very funny if it wasn't so ironic....
    But what is the demographic split of these 200 ? How old are they? I am interested in who actually voted in your poll, as this seems to include students and AT's....

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