Architects have welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election on Saturday (12 September)
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The one-time outsider beat fellow candidates Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall to the role in a landslide victory which saw Corbyn take almost 60 per cent of the vote.
Welcoming the win, architect and Stirling Prize-winner Will Alsop, said: ‘At last we have someone that can give the electorate something to think about. We have a choice at last.’
On hearing the news architect Sarah Wigglesworth, tweeted from the University of Sheffield’s Resilience conference: ‘Congruence of future visions as Jeremy Corbyn’s victory announced.’
While 5th Studio’s Tom Holbrook also tweeted: ‘I might be disparaged by the Blairite rump as an ‘entryist’ but for the first time I’m up for some grass roots activism.’
Anthony Hudson, director of Norwich and London-based Hudson Architects told the AJ: ‘If Corbyn could reignite enthusiasm for sensible public funded infrastructure projects and reverse the constant undermining of local democracy while avoiding the pitfalls of old labour then there is hope for a new politics.’
While PRP Architects’ Andy von Bradsky, commented: ‘We should welcome the opportunity this brings to have a balanced debate about investment in social housing and other forms of tenure for young and less advantaged people.
‘The government’s emphasis on home ownership as the only tenure will lead to even greater inequalities, more homelessness and abuses of the system as currently occurs in permitted development rights for office to residential conversions and beds in sheds, for example.’
He added: ‘However the new Labour leadership must bring businesses with them and not rely on outmoded approaches to state control. We still need the private and public sectors to work together for public good. I would particularly be interested to explore how Local Authorities can play a major role in increasing supply in partnership with the private sector.’
The results of the leadership election were announced at the QEII Conference centre in London on Saturday (12 September), where Tom Watson was also declared the party’s new deputy leader.
The AJ had previously revealed the profession’s widespread support for Corbyn. In the AJ’s recent survey, 74 per cent of respondents said he was their first choice for leader. Cooper came a distant second with ten per cent support, Burnham had nine per cent and Kendall registered six per cent.
Architects were won over by his brand of ‘Corbynomics’ and social housing-focused policies.
Of all the candidates, Corbyn had the most detailed housing policies. His nine-page housing manifesto pledged to build 100,000 council homes per year, lift the borrowing cap on local authorities, scrap right-to-buy, and introduce a National Investment Bank to support new-build housing projects.
Jeremy Till, head of Central St Martins
‘The important thing about Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader is that he opens up the possibility to posit alternatives to the neoliberal system, and in particular to challenge that it is the only, let alone natural, way of conducting things. After almost 40 years of Thatcherism and its softer - but equally market driven - sibling Blairism, there is obvious hunger and hope for this debate, which is why I welcome his election and voted for him.
The role of the state in housing has to be brought back to the table
‘In terms of housing and the built environment, Corbyn’s election allows us to state that the production of space, infrastructure and the built and natural environment should not be left in a laissez-faire manner to market forces. The ideological imposition of disastrous policies such as the extension to right-to-buy have to be firmly challenged on economic and social grounds. The role of the state and public sector in housing has to be brought back to the table if we are to achieve any form of equitable housing provision, and I believe the general tenets of Corbyn’s approach will allow this to happen.’
Chris Mackenzie, director of Bath-based Designscape Architects
‘Corbyn is the long overdue antidote to the business as usual Westminster Village politics the electorate is so fed up with. We all feel that Corbyn’s election will be good for the political debate in the UK. I don’t know whether or not he is electable - the establishment never expected him to get elected as labour leader, and the opinion polls aren’t exactly known for their pinpoint accuracy at the moment - but at the very least we will now have a debate which includes an alternative vision to that being followed by the Tories. During the leadership contest, none of the other labour leadership contenders uttered anything other than soundbites aimed at not upsetting Middle England. Their objective – as it was during the general election – was to get elected somehow without letting people know what we were supposed to be voting for.
‘They were just hoping to somehow slip into power because of the unpopularity of the alternative, but Corbyn has come out with a clear alternative, and there will now surely be a very interesting debate about our direction of travel, which is long, long overdue.’
Andrew Waugh, co-founder, Waugh Thistleton
‘I am very excited at the prospect of a front line politician with a serious sustainability agenda and a proper housing policy – it’s a fantastic chance for a much needed radical conversation - a relief to the convergent centrist politics we were getting used to and depressed by. Politics has been so dominated by self-serving individuals for so long this guy seems to have real conviction and well considered policies.
‘Housing is in crisis and the sustainability agenda is being steadily diluted - we haven’t heard a coherent voice on these subjects in years. The architecture profession should engage enthusiastically with a politic that champions social justice - and ask itself why it takes a politician to ask the questions that the profession should have been asking itself.’
Jack Pringle, former RIBA president
‘Corbyn’s election is a romantic throw back to the socialist ideals of the past and the end of New Labour which will be forever dammed by the rashness of the Iraq war.
Corbyn’s election is a romantic throw back
It will either mean that Labour will be out of power for a generation or, if Corbyn captures the public’s imagination as he has the party’s, that the UK will enter an economic winter in five years time when he starts to print money to fund his wish list. The pound will collapse, which will at least make exporters happy. May you live in interesting times.’
Russell Curtis, director, RCKa Architects:
‘I’m in two minds about Corbyn’s victory. Whilst I have a number of ideological differences with the policy statements he has made so far, clearly the status quo has failed us when it comes to the current housing crisis so if this leads to a fundamental shift in national policy then this must be something to celebrate.
I’m not sure that architecture comes very highly on his priorities
‘I’m not sure that architecture comes very highly on his list of priorities, however – and let us not forget that any opportunities to enact change will be limited whilst the Labour Party remains in opposition anyway. I think Sadiq Khan as Mayor provides a more interesting (and realistic) proposition for change in London, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the elections next Spring.’
Warren Whyte of WhyteConsult and cabinet member for planning and environment at Buckinghamshire County Council:
‘Despite Corbyn’s long career in politics, I’m not convinced that he has any real plans for how he might deliver his proposed homes as he has been too busy campaigning against everything and anything up to now. Including his own party.
Corbyn is more concerned about political dogma than actual outcomes
‘It will be interesting to watch how the new shadow cabinet evolves and if any policy developments in planning and infrastructure investment are worthy of debate in the coming years. He seems more concerned about political dogma rather than actual outcomes. For example, what makes him assume that local councils are the best way to build a large proportion of new housing? His time as part of 1970s Haringey Council does not give me any comfort.
‘I do hope he can provide an effective official opposition as every government, of any colour, needs check and challenge. But Corbyn will be too busy attending protest marches and such like rather than actually worrying about how he might have to deliver his policies, which of course is the perennial problem for previous socialist governments: there is only so much of someone else’s money to spend before it runs out.’