A property renting democracy?

Home ownership has long been a central issue in British politics. Only the other day prime minister Boris Johnson said it is overwhelmingly what people in this country want. “It’s good for society, great for the economy, it drives jobs and growth,” he tweeted. “That’s why we’re supporting it.” Fair enough, it’s something his party has long been committed to. […]

HS2: route and branches review needed

When people argue something is so good it’s pretty well perfect, and then it gets radically altered and they still say it’s perfect, then it’s time for some big questions. With the threat of catastrophic climate change getting ever nearer, the need to address the UK’s most greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive sector – transport – grows ever more urgent. Yet […]

A change of track

Few people in Leicester these days know the city long ago had three mainline railway stations, including a very grandiose terminus. The old Belgrave Road station opened in 1883 and, back in the day, Leicester folk used to begin their trips to East Coast holiday resorts at the station. But the station’s promoters had got their ideas badly wrong. It […]

The road not taken

“All times are times of transition,” wrote Flora Thompson in the late 1930s, recalling her childhood of the 1880s. I have been reading her well-known book, Lark Rise to Candleford, for the first time, having previously been mildly put off it by what I remember of a likeable but rather sentimentalised adaptation by the BBC. The book itself, with its […]

Food security matters

“Keep calm and carry on” is a much misquoted slogan from the Second World War, but it reminds us how rapidly things can change. It’s just a fortnight since Russia launched its deadly military assault on Ukraine. Already thousands have died and cities are being reduced to rubble. Here, everyday life goes on, but most people realise that things are […]

The day the world changed

When historians come to write the history of our times, 24 February 2022 may well be remembered as the day the World changed. We have no idea yet where the horror in Ukraine will lead, but we can be sure things will be different. Amidst the tragedy, a few are clinging to the old myths about fossil fuel powered growth. […]

Heritage loss, sentimentality and survival

The built environment In 1941, Vita Sackville-West was commissioned to write an extended essay on ‘English Country Houses’. During some of the darkest days of the Second World War, she wrote: “Fortunate in her domestic history, it seems likely that England (if in accordance with her tradition she escapes invasion in the present war) will witness the gradual destruction of […]

Meeting housing policy scrutiny demand

The point of Parliamentary select committee inquiries is to critically examine Government policy, cross-examine both its proponents and those that disagree with it and reach a measured conclusion which helps the Government out of whatever hole it’s dug for itself. But it isn’t always that way. So I suppose we should have known better than to submit evidence to the […]

Levelling-up or rule by megalomaniac?

When your job-title is the slightly surreal “levelling-up secretary”, it must make sense to be working on a levelling-up white paper, especially in a country like England whose regional inequalities are worse than Germany’s just after the Iron Curtain came down. Germany addressed its inequalities with vigour. Now it’s time for Michael Gove to do likewise. But leaks to newspapers […]

A winter chill for the Overheated Arc

A winter chill is blowing hard through the so-called “Oxford-Cambridge Arc” as ministers slowly come to realise it would fatally undermine their levelling-up agenda The recent unpublicised run-down of the Civil Service team at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities responsible for imposing the Arc on the five threatened counties only confirms the rapid cooling in recent weeks. […]