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Architects react to Tory landslide election victory: ‘Our country is left in tatters’

Shutterstock number 10 downing street november 2019
  • 18 Comments

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won a landslide victory in the general election – a result which has provoked anger from the profession

AJ readers had been hoping for a Labour win, with an online poll showing that 39 per cent of respondents were planning to vote for the party, compared to just 15 per cent for the Tories.

However Jeremy Corbyn’s party had its worst performance for years at the ballot box, losing seats across the North, Midlands and Wales. 

Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio said the newly elected government, which now has a much stronger majority, would now ’continue on a path they have set out for the last nine years, but this time on steroids, pumped up as they are on their own bully-boy tactics’.

He said: ’We are left now with our country in tatters, and no hope, no future and no sense that our government will ever be anything other than a horrendous concoction of idiotic, self-interested, self-serving and morally bankrupt half-wits. We deserved better: we had our chance, and we’ve blown it. Now for two decades or more of discontent.’

Ian Ritchie of Ian Ritchie Architects agreed: ’The UK has enjoyed respect and influence out of proportion to its size since the Second World War. With the Tory victory and subsequent Brexit, it will lose both.

’Rather than a reputation as the “mother of parliaments” we will be known as a society finally destroyed by entrenched privilege: ruled by those who make the laws but are not bound by them, over those who are bound by law but not protected by it.’

The swing towards the Conservatives was blamed partly on the wider unpopularity of Corbyn – Ritchie claims he ’scared the shit out of the public at large’ – and a vote to get Brexit finally pushed though as per Johnson’s repeated campaign mantra.

Shutterstock boris johnson leave brexit

Shutterstock boris johnson leave brexit

In the AJ’s own poll Brexit ranked top as the most important issue for respondents when deciding who to vote for, with 45 per cent saying it was their highest priority when choosing. Among those voting Tory that proportion was even higher at 58 per cent.

Corbyn, who had been widely supported by the profession when he became leader in 2015, has said he will not will not lead Labour into the next election after what he described as a ’very disappointing night’ for his party.

Meanwhile in Chichester, Bell Phillips architect Jay Morton failed to win, with the Conservative candidate holding the seat with a huge majority.

The election result was welcomed, however, by the Federation of Master Builders. Chief executive Brian Berry said: ’Business will welcome the certainty now that Boris has a clear mandate. He needs to act decisively and get the [Brexit] deal done as quickly as possible. The real challenge will be to sort out the trade deals.

‘A Brexit Britain offers the new government an opportunity to tackle the housing crisis. We want to see a reduction in VAT on maintenance and repairs and a comprehensive national retrofit strategy to upgrade our existing housing stock.’

Comments

Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio
Other than the full-frontal attack on our liberal democracy by a party that seeks to destroy anything good in the world, this newly elected Tory government will continue on a path that they have set out for the last nine years, but this time on steroids, pumped up as they are on their own bully-boy tactics. Public spending will go from almost nothing to less than nothing; there will be no investment in housing infrastructure, school building, or, as they claim, multiple hospitals. Nor indeed, in our railways, universities, libraries or civic buildings. If we ask what the Tories can offer architecture, the answer has to be a resounding nothing. All this of course, plus Brexit, where our enormous losses are well known and well documented.

If we ask what the Tories can offer architecture, the answer has to be a resounding nothing

We are left now with our country in tatters, and no hope, no future and no sense that our government will ever be anything other than a horrendous concoction of idiotic, self-interested, self-serving and morally bankrupt half-wits. We deserved better: we had our chance, and we’ve blown it. Now for two decades or more of discontent.

Maggie Mullan of Maggie Mullan Architects
That’s a pretty emphatic win. So Brexit will get done - and with that undoubtedly a range of stealth taxes to bolster the risk. On the plus side Boris Johnson loves big infrastructure projects so we should see progress with improved transport infrastructure across the country.

But watch the erosion of democracy hidden in the small print - Johnson is still sore from the rough ride on proroguing and is determined to redress what he percieves as an unbalance between the justice system, government and parliament.
He is man’s whose ego doesn’t forget and the constitution will bear the brunt.

Ian Ritchie of Ian Ritchie Architects
The UK’s youth will come to regard a Conservative victory and subsequent Brexit as an unforgivable betrayal. Disenfranchised, they will lose the privileges that come with EU citizenship just as the rest of the world’s young people are coming together and finding a powerful voice about their future in a world threatened by climate change and growing economic inequality.

My thoughts and hopes are with our youth, and my heart bleeds for them.

The UK has enjoyed respect and influence out of proportion to its size since the Second World War. With the Tory victory and subsequent Brexit, it will lose both. Rather than a reputation as the ‘mother of parliaments’ we will be known as a society finally destroyed by entrenched privilege: ruled by those who make the laws but are not bound by them, over those who are bound by law but not protected by it.

Architecture is incidental in the context of the social, economic and political consequences of this election result for the UK and the EU. I am an optimist – but this is a real challenge. My thoughts and hopes are with our youth, and my heart bleeds for them.

Earle Arney, managing director at Arney Fender Katsalidis
Wow! After three years of stagnation, political uncertainty and economic decline, the majority of people have voted to move on. I am happy to declare that three years ago I was an avid Remainer – I did not become a Londoner for over a decade to be isolated from Europe. However, democracy has spoken and democracy is sometimes uncomfortable particularly when you are in the minority. Many of us have been close to exhibiting intellectual arrogance arguing that those who voted to Leave did so without comprehending their choice. I have more faith in people’s decisions and have since believed, soon after the Referendum, that the majority needs to be respected – despite Machiavellian promises made in the lead-up to the referendum. For the culture and the social fabric of this country I am heartened that we have elected a government that will deliver the mandate of the 2016 referendum.

I’m heartened we’ve elected a government that will deliver the mandate of the 2016 referendum

This has been an extraordinary election with extraordinary promises. All parties put forward a mixed bag of manifesto promises, with some sensible, some outlandish and some Draconian – depending on your political viewpoint. The Conservatives were no exception but after nine years in government there has been little headway in terms of tackling crippling issues such as housing affordability and supply. We now need a convincing plan of action of how to tackle the housing crisis, stimulate the property market and address matters such as Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty to ensure our nation’s competitiveness.

There are however, some positive measures in the manifesto such as those to help first time buyers, shaking-up mortgages and allowing councils freedom to discount homes through developer contributions as well as setting out a commitment to protect the green belt. Some may also take encouragement that the recent manifesto must be one of the first times the Conservatives propose even cursory measures to act on climate change – at least it’s a beginning.

Richard Waterhouse, architect and chief executive of NBS
Top of the agenda will be ensuring the construction sector is fully equipped to deliver on the enormous housebuilding requirements of this nation. In order to meet even the most modest targets we will need to ramp up the adoption of modern methods of construction while also upskilling the workforce for the digital age.

Furthermore, as we strive for the ‘Golden Thread’ as set out by Dame Judith Hackitt, we fully expect the new government to bring forward legislation ensuring there is a sufficiently robust regulatory system in place. This should command cross party support as it will save lives.

Leanne Tritton, founder of built environment communications agency ING Media
The election result provides clarity that investors in the property sector were craving. Regardless of your political views, this confidence has a direct impact on architecture practices.

If the new government follows through with their pledges for investment in science and technology, infrastructure, education and the NHS, this result could have a dramatic impact on all businesses related to the built environment.

Alan Dunlop, Alan Dunlop Architects
With Labour stunned and Liberals reeling, his new ’People’s Government’ majority allows him to determine the future of the UK, Brexit, and the Union. But there is a thorn in his crown - the rampant win of the SNP making Scotland effectively a one-party state and one that will persist in its claims for separation. On the face of it, their position is unassailable with the vast majority of seats and policies on energy, infrastructure and housing. They have committed to introducing a £25 million rural housing fund to build affordable homes and intend to push Westminster to accelerate carbon capture measures. All cars in Scotland will be electric by 2032, with taxation reforms to support “greener choices” and make homes more energy efficient. Their commitment to NPD (Non Profit Distribution) through the Scottish Futures Trust is a weakness and has resulted in poor procurement of schools, hospitals and public buildings, including delays in the opening of the new children’s hospital in Edinburgh at a projected cost of £520 million.

Johnson needs to spread projects and wealth outside of London and quickly, to counter the threat from the SNP

Johnson needs to spread projects and wealth outside of London and the South East, and quickly, to counter the threat from the SNP. I suggest that the key is an ambitious programme of rebuilding,especially house building, to cater for the nation’s much-changed demographic and to give young people a real opportunity to access quality affordable housing. The question for architects is whether they will be around the table when decisions are made.

In terms of the future of the Scotland to Ireland bridge, I’d been to the Parliament to discuss the crossing with MSP for Argyll and Bute Mike Russell and felt positive that my call for a feasibility study would be taken forward. But all was scuppered when Boris Johnson came out in favour at the DUP conference in summer. He no longer needs the support of the DUP so it may well be put on the back burner. But frankly nothing surprises me. It’s been a constant story since January 2018 and it may well rise again. Connections and trade with Northern Ireland will remain an issue in coming talks. The bridge may well be put forward as a solution to keep Northern Ireland firmly connected to the mainland.

  • 18 Comments

Readers' comments (18)

  • Self-selecting ‘surveys’ should be taken with a bucket of salt. Meanwhile this story shows that a few architects are upset. It sounds as though they need a quiet lie-down after a long night!

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  • Utter disaster. I feel betrayed by my compatriots.
    Massive Katzenjammer and feeling of dejection.

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  • Corbyn and McDonnell would have been the disaster.

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  • Paul, Labour had no chance to come on top but we needed a hung parliament to keep Tory slime and lies in check...

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  • on the bright side... Arup and Heatherwick will be recruiting

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  • Depressing news, now misanthropy rules on this ship of fools.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    The people were asked, and two-thirds of them bothered to answer.
    You can argue all you want about the voting system -and also the calibre of the candidates, but their vote is more important than yours or mine. So the result is a fact of life.

    Who knows whether Boris will go for a WTO arrangement, or death by a thousand cuts in a fudged deal with Brussels, but either way, you have industrial, commercial, public and private clients and users who are looking to you lot to give them the best solutions to their challenges.

    I am surprised at how hysterical some people are reacting, they should perhaps use their imaginations on their design work.

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  • Its a democracy, the London luvy set bubble has been popped. Take a cold shower and reflect on that. And better still go tour the rest of the UK and see how badly your naïve idealism goes down. Then burrow down to the real cause of our financial demise, and learn up about the mercantile warfare China is waging against the west to de-industrialise us and take intellectual property rights. That will be the big one next time around. If you don't there will be even less produced in the UK, creating less wealth for private sector construction and less tax income for the public sector.

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  • Friday the 13th and turkeys have voted for Christmas.

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  • Easy to be dazzled by the size of the Conservative majority, but it surely represents a lack of awareness in England of just what a minefield Northern Ireland and Scotland might soon become. R.I.P. UK?

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