There was more bravado than introspection but for those attending from the industry, a disappointing lack of content
Given this year’s Conservative conference was presaged by a major defection to UKIP, a ministerial resignation, and polls by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggesting the party is heading for electoral oblivion, you may have expected the mood to be, if not downbeat, sober and businesslike.
But instead the conflicting messages hitting the Tories seem to have affected them in a different way, bringing a febrile, nervous energy to the shindig, and more bravado than introspection.
But in policy terms, most of those from the industry attending were disappointed by the relative lack of content.
Given the profile housing now has politically, the bigger disappointment was the announcement did not feel like a comprehensive strategic attempt to tackle a huge challenge
Construction issues were this week almost entirely absent from the debate. George Osborne’s pledge to rebalance the UK economy was the one bright spot, given its encouraging implication of future support for investment in infrastructure including high-speed rail in the North. But specific pledges were thin on the ground.
Housing policy had a much higher profile, with David Cameron’s announcement to build 100,000 starter homes in the next parliament setting the tone.
However, while the major developers in attendance approved, this was contingent on seeing the details of what could be a very complex plan to put into action. Meanwhile, social housing and green groups are appalled by this idea, and housebuilders are sceptical it can work.
Given the profile housing now has politically, the bigger disappointment was the announcement did not feel like a comprehensive strategic attempt to tackle what is recognised across the political spectrum as a huge challenge.
But ultimately the party faithful know that it won’t be housing pledges that win or lose them the election.
Their faith they can get a result, bolstered by confident speeches from Cabinet ministers, has been boosted by Miliband’s faltering performance in Manchester last week. That, more than anything, has kept the Tories’ spirits high.
Joey Gardiner, deputy editor