Conference season is upon us, and after a brief trip south to hear about the Lib Dems plans for government in Bournemouth last week, this week the CLA public affairs team set northwards to Manchester to understand the current administration’s thinking for the next year.
While the latest HS2 cancellation will rightly grab many of the headlines (read our analysis here), there was much more going on away from the Prime Minister’s speech. I had expected the mood to be sombre or at least reflective due to the current polling showing a Labour surge, but it was largely the opposite. It was positive, good natured and eager to discuss policy opportunities. A stark contrast to previous years which were overshadowed by infighting and Brexit debates.
Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey gave a good speech highlighting many components of the rural powerhouse campaign, and the need to improve the delivery of housing. As part of this, she announced the Rural Housing Strategy, which will set out the government's response to a consultation on expanding Permitted Development Rights, making it easier to adapt redundant agricultural buildings.
There was also emphasis placed on improving rural transport, the full details of which the CLA will provide when the information is published.
Renters Reform Bill
The mysterious case of the Renters Reform Bill was also a hot topic of conversation as the bill (which contains the removal of section 21), has fallen off the parliamentary schedule due to a lack of backbench support.
The party has very little time in the parliamentary cycle to bring it back after the upcoming King's Speech, with some also questioning whether it was the right thing to do.
Turning to farming and the new environmental schemes, and the words of Jacob Rees Moggs who called for “cheap hormone infused beef” from Australia. Many MPs were frustrated by his comments saying that they did not reflect the view of the party.
There was a lot of support for farming and the challenge of transitioning to new schemes. Labour’s recently leaked ideas to potentially scrap Agricultural Property Relief (APR) and Business Property Relief (BPR) were widely dismissed with the Secretary of State and others firm that a Conservative government wouldn’t even consider it.
The next general election
The question that everyone seemed to be asking was “when is the election going to be?”
Genuinely nobody seems to know, I spoke with two senior ministers who gave me different dates and good explanations for either a spring or October election, so perhaps not worth a trip to the bookies just yet.
One surety seems to be that there will be a significant reshuffle at the end of the month, when the Prime Minister looks to put forward a team that he feels will lead them into the election.
Onwards now to Liverpool, to encounter a potential buoyant Labour party who now need to put their cards on the table of what they have to offer a potential electorate.
Stay tuned for further details of the Labour party conference coming soon.