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The forces shaping construction are bigger than short-term political upsets

Paul Finch
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The election result is inconclusive, but architecture’s resilience since the Brexit vote suggests our industry is inured to short-term political upheaval, writes Paul Finch

Perhaps the surprising thing is that we should be surprised about the outcome, given recent electoral history. The Labour Party has now lost three elections in a row and scarcely features in Scottish politics. The Lib Dem ‘revival’ turned out to be a chimera. The Conservatives gained more votes than last time, but lost an overall majority.

Of course there are always some silver linings in the political cloud (UKIP wiped out, Mr Clegg losing his seat), but the indecisive result will make EU negotiations more difficult, potentially. One recalls John Major saying that when your backs are against the wall there is only one thing to do: turn around and charge!

Political uncertainty is rarely a good context for a confident construction and development industry to invest and take risks but, given its resilience post-referendum, after which the economic world was supposedly going to collapse (it didn’t, of course), it may be that the sector is inured to short-term political contexts and now responds to broader tides of population increase, global finance and strengthening relationships with the world beyond the EU.

There is no reason to think that investment in infrastructure and regeneration programmes will come to a halt, possibly the opposite. Housebuilding will continue to flourish on the basis of the ongoing shortage. Retail is in flux because of online disruption, so the political context means little.

However, the office market will be one to watch because it reflects not only development and investment attitudes, but acts as a barometer of the economy, especially the financial services sector.

The barometer suggests stormy weather.

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