Could Theresa May’s decision to call a snap General Election leave the property sector facing a sixth new housing minister in seven years?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched the party’s General Election Campaign from Croydon, where current Housing Minister Gavin Barwell MP is defending a majority of just 165.
Mr Barwell’s Croydon Constituency voted comfortably to remain in last year’s referendum, with 92,913 residents voting not to leave the European Union – a majority of almost 15,000.
If just 83 remain voters who voted Conservative last time change their vote in protest at Brexit, or 166 of the 1152 residents who voted Liberal Democrat in 2015 switch to Labour, Croydon could have a new MP on June 9 – meaning a sixth new Housing Minister in almost as many years.
Mr Barwell’s narrow victory in the 2015 General Election prompted him to publish a book entitled “My Year Fighting for My Political Life”.
Mark Prisk, Grant Shapps, Kelvin Hopkins and Brandon Lewis have all also acted as Housing Minister since the Conservatives took office in 2010.
Property expert, Ajay Jagota, responded to the Prime Minister’s announcement: “It’s no coincidence that Jeremy Corbyn launched his election campaign in Gavin Barwell’s constituency – Labour genuinely think they can win there.
It might sound outlandish given their current polling but even if Labour does perform as poorly as predicted on June 8 it doesn’t mean they won’t have the odd result worth celebrating on the night - and as it will only take 83 remain voters who voted Conservative last time to switch their votes in protest at Brexit to oust Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central is a likely a place as anywhere for that result to happen.
Even if Gavin Barwell is returned to parliament it doesn’t mean he won’t be promoted, demoted or moved to another department in a post-election reshuffle as Housing Ministers tend to last about as long as Sunderland managers.
It has to be said that this lack of continuity is pretty unhelpful for the property sector. With the Housing White Paper recently published and the letting agent ban consultation widened to include deposit reform, what we really need at the moment is certainty, clarity and continuity.
If there is a change, it would make the most sense for Housing Minister to once again become a full cabinet role, reflecting the fundamental importance of housing to each and every voter in the UK, or for the new minister to be someone like Kevin Hollinrake, who has relevant credentials for the job.
Whatever happens it doesn’t mean the industry can kid itself that this is the end of unpopular policies like the letting agent ban – if anything I’d expect to see that in the Conservative manifesto.”