Politics Explained

Rishi Sunak’s embrace of nimbyism lets down all those who are desperate for proper housing reform

By the time either Sunak or Truss wins the leadership contest, they will have accumulated a large, uncontested and reactionary policy programme dictated by an extremely small and unrepresentative clique of Tory members, argues Sean O’Grady

Thursday 28 July 2022 21:30 BST
Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during a campaign event in Newmarket
Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during a campaign event in Newmarket (AFP via Getty)

Right now, the government’s programme for the remaining two years or so of this parliament is essentially being written, ad hoc, by around 160,000 members of the Conservative Party.

Despite all the talk about “delivering” on the 2019 general election manifesto, pledges are being dropped and new ones added by Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss every time they turn up in a media studio or at a hustings. The new policies appear to edge to the right of even Boris Johnson’s plans, and are arrived at without much of the kind of care the civil service usually devotes to such work. It’s off the cuff, it’s rash, and if it’ll get a few more of the activists to cast their vote in the right column, all the better.

Sunak’s embrace of nimbyism is a case in point. Posing in a waxed jacket with, presumably, the rolling countryside of his North Yorkshire constituency behind him, he looks every inch the country gent. He pledges to protect “precious” green spaces and green belts: “Green belt land is extremely precious in the UK. Over the last few years we’ve seen too many examples of local councils circumventing the views of residents by taking land out of the green belt for development, but I will put a stop to it.

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