Algorithm angst: Conservatives detect the hand of Cummings in the planning white paper

Share this article

Finally, something is getting up the noses of supporters of the Conservatives.

It seems it’s not the request to slap ‘do not resuscitate‘ orders (DNRs) on all care-home residents at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Nor is it the ongoing scandal of billions spaffed on non-existent PPE ordered without scrutiny from companies with party connections. It’s not even the non-exam grade fiasco, or the ‘world-beating’ (at failing) ‘test, track and trace’ system, or the explosion in the national debt or the news that we are amongst the worst hit of the major economies or that we are near the top of the tables for Covid-19 deaths relative to population size.

They also don’t seem much exercised by Russian interference in our elections, or Johnson’s endless holidays or the absolute catalogue of ineptitude, blame-shifting and U-turns. None of that appears to be more than an irritation. As for the leaked government contingency plans in the event of a covid-19 second wave coupled with a no-deal Brexit? Nah. Project Fear, innit! (Leaked in the Sun! The Sun!)

But planning…Well, that’s a different story. Take a look at this:

In each region you can see how housing numbers go down in large cities (often below what has been delivered recently!) and up in shire and suburban areas

It also proposes continuing a south-east centric growth model

Originally tweeted by Neil O’Brien MP (@NeilDotObrien) on 24/08/2020.

Interesting, huh? But it’s the comments’ section where our curiosity was piqued.

“Having read the papers on new planning proposals put out by Mr Jenrick, I have come to the conclusion that he knows nothing about the function of planning, nothing about rural areas and nothing about Conservative voters. His proposals are a disaster for the Conservative vote and will be a disaster for the countryside. According to this man, it is possible to both build on land and to increase green spaces! A miracle worker, no less. Even if your role is housing minister, surely you should understand that land has more uses than housing. Surely he should know that land is not an elastic commodity. What a disaster.”

Another responds;

“Please don’t labour under the illusion that this has anything to do with Mr Jenrick – he’s just a figurehead. These authoritarian planning proposals, which are utterly top-down and at the expense of local self-determination, are known to come from Dominic Cummings. Local democracy is simply an annoyance for someone as ruthless, tone deaf and philistine as Mr Cummings.”

They can see clearly what’s going wrong.

“This is the price paid for Brexit and the consequent rise of Dominic Cummings. The implemention of his planning dreams, which owe nothing to traditional Conservative values. The Conservative stronghold of the South East is to get a large dose of concrete. Hordes of independent councillors will spring up and quite probably a few independent MPs but the new Blue Wall won’t worry
[…] will greatly weaken the Conservative Party without Labour firing a shot. A rather selfless own goal.”

There are many more comments along these lines, citing Cummings’ thirst for revolution and disruption, good or bad, as the driver behind policy. One goes so far as to describe the planning proposals as ‘Johnson’s poll tax’. Hmm.

We will be writing more on the implications for Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset but, in the meantime, it’s worth reflecting on what gets the danders up.