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Hung parliament: the profession reacts to ‘period of uncertainty’


After an extraordinary election night, the profession reacts to the prospect of a hung parliament and the uncertainty threatening the profession, given the impending Brexit negotiations

John McRae of ORMS said the result, with a huge surge in support for Labour, had ’backfired spectacularly’ on prime minister Theresa May after her decision to call a snap general election in April.

He added that the result sends a ‘strong message’ to governments in Europe that ’we are deeply divided and that Brexit negotiations will be even tougher for us’.

Meanwhile, John Assael, chair of Assael Architecture, said: ’With Brexit negotiations looming, this general election was supposed to provide clarity and foresight on the most burning issues of our time, not extend the current period of uncertainty.’

Perhaps the biggest shock to architects from the election night will be the loss of Gavin Barwell as housing minister, who failed to hold on to his Croydon Central seat, losing out to Labour candidate Sarah Jones.

Commenting on Barwell losing his seat, Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets, said: ’There will be many from across the housing sector and political spectrum who regret that.

’He was widely seen as getting on top of his brief and being impressively pragmatic and hard working.’

With the loss of 13 Conservative seats, and Labour gaining 29 seats, there will be a period of discussions about that to do next between the political parties.

Possible outcomes include a coalition majority government, which commentators have said is most likely to happen between the Conservative and DUP, or a minority government, which both Conservatives or Labour could attempt to do.


Patrick Lynch of Lynch Architects

’Strangely this feels like a moral victory for Labour, particularly in London, and also an intellectual one. 

’Specifically a consumerist approach to education no longer feels inevitable, and the possibility of any sort of hard Brexit is now dead. The death of the welfare state is no longer inevitable it seems. As a Labour Party member I’m very happy about our progress in this election, but also recognise that we didn’t win a majority.

’If we can build on this progress though, and take heart from the popularity of the manifesto, then there is hope again of a genuinely Socialist and Green Labour government at some point - sooner than anyone thought until today. From my perspective, the need and case for a progressive alliance and proportional representation is pretty obvious now.’

Charles Holland, formerly of FAT and founder of Charles Holalnd Architects

’Given where the polls where when Theresa May called this election, I think it’s a decisive rejection of her Hard Brexit agenda. She blew it basically and she blew it through an unappealing manifesto and the robotic mouthing of empty platitudes.

’It’s also an endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto. In the Evening Standard this was described ludicrously as being dreamt up by a Marxist cabal, when I think it’s actually a social democratic platform with broad appeal.

‘It is hard to see how the Conservatives can meaningfully carry on’

’The Conservatives don’t have the option of Lib Demsupport in a coalition and the DUP are saying it’s difficult for her to survive - so it is therefore hard to see how the Conservatives can meaningfully carry on.’

Maggie Mullan of Maggie Mullan Architects

’What a result! I would have put money on Theresa May consolidating her position when she called this general election but over the past weeks have significantly warmed to Jeremy Corbyn. May’s refusal to enter public debates came across as both arrogant and insecure.

It’s a triumph of humanity over xenophobia

’Fears for the NHS have won out against the myopic anti-immigration stance of the Tories. It’s very telling that the SNP lost 4 seats to labour - a backlash against a second referendum? I am proud of the electorate today - it’s the triumph of humanity over xenophobia. Let’s hope that this trend will continue and build.’ 

Ivan Harbour, senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

’Following this election we urge those tasked with negotiating our relationship with the European Union to take into consideration the significant contribution the international, cosmopolitan design community, centred in the United Kingdom, has to both the finances and global stature of this country.’

John Assael, chair of Assael Architecture

’Today’s result of a hung parliament was not expected and will not be welcomed by any in our sector. With Brexit negotiations looming, this general election was supposed to provide clarity and foresight on the most burning issues of our time, not extend the current period of uncertainty.

Today’s result of a hung parliament was not expected and will not be welcomed by any in our sector

’Whatever form the government eventually takes, the priorities remain the same: affordable housing, a robust construction industry and greener, denser and more sustainable cities. Despite Brexit, the new government must not let the built environment slip down the agenda.’

John McRae of ORMS

’The electorate has now spoken and this has backfired spectacularly on Theresa May. We now have a period of uncertainty where both parties will try and form a coalition government with the help of the other parties but this sends a strong message to our European friends that we are deeply divided and that Brexit negotiations will be even tougher for us.

’The big questions are: can Theresa May hold onto the Prime Minister role as she is termed ‘damaged goods’ by many; can she (or indeed Labour) form a minority or coalition government; and will she accept that our domestic social challenges cannot just be ignored ahead of a Brexit mandate?

There has been a seismic shift away from SNP in Scotland

’Another spectacular moment that we cannot ignore is there has been a seismic shift away from SNP in Scotland and perhaps we can now focus on a United Kingdom and negotiate a Brexit deal for the whole country.

‘Hold onto your coat tails as the next week could be as eventful as the days following the Brexit vote.’

Martyn Evans, development director at the Dartington Hall Estate

’The most important thing about this election result is the rejection of traditional politics and government and the resurgence of people-centred activism. One million 18-34 year olds have registered to vote since the election was called. This surely must have an impact on the development of policies that affect people the most - housing and community issues. Already the Tories were talking in their manifesto about a retreat from the prevailing Thatcher-era policy on local authority housebuilding that has done so much harm.

A hung parliament will mean debate

’A hung parliament will mean debate. Lots of it. Debate about issues that people care about. In our industry now is the time for us to raise our voices and argue the case for the power of architecture and community housebuilding to transform people’s lives.’

Mark Middleton, Grimshaw

’It’s a disappointing result for two reasons: the first is we don’t have an outright winner, a hung parliament isnt any good for anyone; the second is that the vote reveals a great polarisation in the British electorate, be that in England or Scotland, and this binary separation cannot be good in the long term.’

Keith Williams of Keith Williams Architects

’A hung parliament; like most people I did not see that one coming.The PM went to the country primarily to ask for a stronger mandate to negotiate without challenge the Brexit outcome. The people have spoken and the answer is plain for all to see. Twice in less than a year, the Conservatives have thrown the country into uncertainty. It has already cost them one prime minister and has severely weakened the present one, showing the party’s extraordinary inability to read the political runes. Will Theresa May and her government last the parliamentary term; we shall see?

‘Twice in less than a year, the Conservatives have thrown the country into uncertainty’

’While she attempts to form a new administration her in tray is extremely full, not least with Brexit and the Article 50 negotiations which commence in 11 days time.

’I was fundamentally opposed to Brexit at every level, believing it to be a deeply uncivilised and economically damaging thing to have set in train, particularly as the Referendum was only held as an attempt to soothe the Tory party’s Achilles heel.

’This election result should sweep away the ’no deal is better than a bad deal’ tough talk from the right wing, and curb the anti EU rhetoric that regularly emanates from the mouths of government ministers. The parliamentary opposition parties should now be able to demand that the government share with parliament the conduct of Brexit’s staggeringly complex negotiations, rather than it be handed a fait accompli at the end of things, as was policy until the election was called.

’It would be no bad thing to show more respect to parliament, to our European partners and to start to work toward a civilised Brexit outcome that guarantee’s the rights of all European citizens and keeps as open as possible, all trade and cultural relationships.

‘And it is just possible that as a result of this election, in spite of the Referendum, that Brexit just might not be politically deliverable at all. Now there’s a thought.’

Tamsie Thomson, director of London Festival of Architecture

’Amidst all the uncertainty thrown up by the election result, one of the few remaining certainties is the ongoing housing crisis. All parties went into the election promising to build more houses, and whoever forms the next government simply has to get on with it.

’London’s architecture sector is hugely dependent upon a talented workforce drawn from all over the world. I hope the absence of a mandate for a harsh Brexit will now make a new government take a more pragmatic approach to overseas workers, by negotiating a deal with the EU that does not choke off UK architecture’s ability to draw upon global talent.’

Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets

’What does the hung parliament and a likely minority Conservative Government propped up by the DUP mean for housing delivery and for architecture ? It’s very hard to be certain.

’Firstly, whatever happens there will be a new housing minister. Gavin Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat. There will be many from across the housing sector and political spectrum who regret that. He was widely seen as getting on top of his brief and being impressively pragmatic and hard working.

’Secondly, look at the seats that the Conservative lost last night and they were very largely in cities or towns. In contrast the seats they gained were mainly rural and in Scotland. The seats of their likely partners, the DUP, are also mainly rural. So the contrast between the mainly urban, metropolitan architectural and housing profession and those of the (admittedly barely) governing parties could barely be sharper.

With the AJ poll showing 64% of architects voting Labour, the difference of mindset between the profession and the government has probably never been greater

’With the AJ poll showing 64% of architects voting Labour, the difference of geography and mindset between the profession and the government has probably never been greater. Rural and suburban government. An urban profession? A challenge for the incoming president of RIBA.

’Whatever your politics, the whole problem with hung parliaments and minority governments is that they are not very good at getting things done. The smallest number of disgruntled backbenchers can stop a policy in its tracks. And this government is going to have some fairly major diplomatic challenges as well. Most commentators think that the Housing White Paper had quite a lot of good suggestions in it. I fear those that not all of those are as likely to be delivered now as they were before Thursday, particularly any which scare Conservative backbenchers in shires and suburbs.’

Leo Pelleriti of Wimshurst Pelleriti

’As with many other UK practices we are a very international office, with many concerns amongst our staff on what the outcome of this election will mean for them.

’Clearly we now need certainty as soon as possible - we need to obtain the best deal from the Brexit negotiations, to ensure that we that we can still access the best talent from abroad – not just architects but across the construction sector which relies so heavily on foreign workers.’

Dinah Bornat of ZCD Architects

’I’d like to hope this result marks the end of the austerity agenda which drove the running down of housing, health and education.

’Importantly it’s felt like a sea change in how by we engage with politics. The movement behind Corbyn is in fact a lot of individual people, many of which who felt they didn’t have a voice or any power. Everyone’s lives matter though, which is what this election has shown.

‘I hope we can get on with building some housing at last and show those people that we care too.’

Melanie Leech, chief executive, British Property Federation

’Not the outcome the country needed going in to the Brexit negotiations or in terms of setting a clear direction for the UK’s future. Businesses don’t like uncertainty and there will clearly now be a further period of uncertainty, which will be unhelpful.

Not the outcome the country needed going in to the Brexit negotiations

’While there may be further uncertainty at national level, BPF members will continue to work with local leaders, including the newly elected Mayors across the country, to invest in local communities – and we stand ready to work with whatever shape of government now emerges.’

Bruce Buckland, director of Buckland Architecture

’Never has an opposition seemed so happy to have lost an election. On the face of it this is not a good result for the profession as it feeds further uncertainty for the country moving forward.

‘Never has an opposition seemed so happy to have lost an election’

‘However, a weaker pound will be good for our exports, though it is unlikely to stay weak for long. It is a great shame that Gavin Barwell has lost his seat as he was just beginning to make inroads into bringing design quality to the forefront of planning policy. Hopefully whoever succeeds him will share his enthusiasm or even exceed it. Only time will tell.’

George Morgan, associate at Coffey Architects

’Here we f*cking go! OK, so it doesn’t look like Labour will be able to form a government. But with any luck the result will put the kibosh on a hard Brexit. And the surge of support for a full on social democratic platform – especially from the young – is a hugely exciting development for our democracy.

’To any have social relevance, architecture needs to be based on an optimistic vision of better ways of living, a better society, a better relationship with the environment. The left’s resurgence offers a path to achieving these. Architects now have a role in proposing what this society might look like.’

’In the meantime there are some hurdles to cross, the rabid homophobes of the DUP becoming important being one. But in all of this it’s important to remember how funny it is for the Tories hubristic fantasies to be smashed.’ 

Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast and author of the Farmer Review

’The result of a hung parliament casts further uncertainty over the UK and could not have happened at a worst time. From a housing and construction perspective, the loss of housing minister, Gavin Barwell is disappointing as he appeared to have a good grasp of what is a very complex brief. What the next few weeks means generally for UK politics remains to be seen.

’The status of Brexit negotiations, commitments made in the Housing White Paper, the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and general approach to the construction industry as an instrument of policy are now all completely linked to the evolution of Tory party leadership and perhaps yet another General Election to overcome the impasse of a hung parliament.

’Whichever parties eventually form the government, there needs to be a comprehensive industrial strategy and housing policy focussed on both addressing skills shortages and increasing the UK’s structural capacity to deliver homes and infrastructure.’

Richard Garner, partner and head of commercial agency at Daniel Watney LLP

’This could well be a boon to the City office market as likelihood of a softer Brexit grows. The currency shifts we’re seeing are likely to have a marginal impact, but while uncertainty remains, many global investors are now used to political volatility.

‘London’s judiciary and transparency still hold it aloft as a safe haven for global capital.’

Dean Clifford, co-founder of Great Marlborough Estates

’With the pound plunging off the back of renewed uncertainty, the hung parliament may pose a good buying opportunity for overseas buyers but looking at home this is the last thing we need.

‘The clock is ticking on Brexit negotiations, and without a good deal with the EU, London will lose a clear part of its attractiveness as a place to live, and all of Britain will be poorer for it.’

Jean-Marc Vandevivere, chief executive of PLATFORM_

’Clearly this is not the outcome many expected or wanted, and yet more uncertainty will only harm the UK economy, which is already seeing signs of a slowdown.

’Regardless, whoever forms the next administration should look to build on the housing white paper, which had a number of good policies, especially around encouraging institutional investment into the rental market to fund the construction of new, quality, purpose-built homes that will give renters a choice outside buy to let.’

What do you think of the election result? Leave a comment below or tweet to @ArchitectsJrnal


Readers' comments (3)

  • I am saddened that Battersea has lost a great MP, who has been influential in the progress of the Diamond Jubilee Bridge, however, in terms of the bigger picture, as a supporter of Proportional Representation this is the best result in these circumstances. It means that the hard policies on Brexit, Fracking, privatisation of healthcare, grammar schools etc. will be reigned in. Yes it does mean that some policy areas, such as housing, will be on hold for 2 years whilst brexit is concluded but maybe that ok. Once that is done we have a natural reset with minimal right wing policies brought forward and a general election in late 2020. In the meantime life will go on but, as we have been for years now, the construction sector will tread water. Life goes on.

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  • For Maggie Mullan: The backlash against the SNP might be as much to do with their shameful neglect of the once admired Scottish education system as with anything else - and a re-run of the other referendum, the European one, would be very welcome here.

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  • I'm across the pond here in the US but definitely feel for all you and the uncertainty that lies ahead. Will be curious to see the outcomes and who are the final winners and losers from all the upheaval. Best of luck!
    Steel King Construction LLC

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