Three events in the next four weeks will determine Theresa May’s future as Prime Minister, I say in The Sun today. If May goes 0 for 3 on the Budget, the Damian Green inquiry and the EU Council then she’ll truly be on the skids. But if the Budget doesn’t unravel, Damian Green is cleared and she gets ‘sufficient progress’ to move on to trade and transition in December then she’ll be in the strongest position she’s been in since the election.
The Budget on Wednesday is the first of these tests. As I write in the magazine this week, so many Tory political tensions abound right now that it’ll be almost miraculous if it doesn’t go wrong. Not all of the blame for this can be pinned on Philip Hammond’s political tin ear.
Political Cabinet were told this week that the Tories’ main priority, beyond the overarching themes of the economy and Brexit, was ‘building the homes our country needs’. But May is resistant to the kind of planning reform that would ensure enough houses get built where people want to live.
I am told that May has even knocked on the head a plan that would see houses allowed to be built within half a mile of train stations in the green belt in areas of high demand. This small change would have led to tens of thousands of much needed new homes in London and the south east. But even this was too much for Number 10.
If Theresa May wants to make fixing the housing crisis her political mission, then she is going to have to do planning reform at some point. If she doesn’t, she’ll never—to borrow a phrase—make sufficient progress to fix this problem.