21 Jun 24

Housing is a key battleground in July’s general election. Voters say housing is the fourth most important issue facing the country right now, after the economy, health and immigration, according to YouGov.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a swathe of people hoping to be MPs on 5 July come from a background in housing or housing policy.

So who are they? Has their work in housing informed their decision to stand? And which of their party’s housing pledges are they most excited about?

From left to right: (top) Aisha Cuthbert, Alex Diner, Andrew Lewin, Antonia Bance, Jennifer Riddell Carpenter, (bottom) Mike Reader, Neena Gill, Nesil Caliskan, Shama Tatler, Tom Wilson.

Here is Inside Housing’s round-up of people from a housing background standing for election.

Labour candidate for Welwyn Hatfield

Andrew Lewin was director of communications at Clarion, the giant housing association, until the election was called. Now he is hoping to unseat Grant Shapps, the secretary of state for defence, in Welwyn Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Mr Shapps has a 10,800-vote majority, but the Electoral Calculus website gives Mr Lewin an 84% chance of winning the seat in July.

In a video posted on X on 9 June, Mr Lewin outlined his five priorities for the area, including reforming business rates and lowering energy bills by taxing oil and gas companies. None was specifically focused on housing.

Mr Lewin worked at Clarion for seven years, first as head of external communications and then director of communications from 2021. He took a leave of absence on 22 May and if he is unsuccessful in the election, he will return to his role at the 125,000-home landlord.

Neena Gill, Labour candidate for Bromsgrove

Neena Gill is the former chief executive of Newlon Housing Group. She became chief executive of Asra Group aged 29, making her the first female, first person from an ethnic minority background and youngest chief executive of a British housing association.

Since her time in housing, Ms Gill has had a distinguished political career. In 1999, she was elected to the European Parliament, where she represented the West Midlands until 2009.

“I’m an experienced politician, I know how to get things done,” she told the Bromsgrove Standard this month. “I know my way around Whitehall and I know the local region.”

Ms Gill is now standing as MP for Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, where current MP Sajid Javid is standing down. Electoral Calculus puts Ms Gill neck and neck with Conservative candidate Bradley Thomas, with a 48% and 52% chance of winning the seat, respectively.

Aisha Cuthbert, Conservative candidate for Sittingbourne and Sheppey

Aisha Cuthbert is currently head of external affairs at Riverside and previously spent seven years in communications at One Housing. From 2018 to 2024 she was executive councillor for the environment at the London Borough of Bromley.

Ms Cuthbert is standing as the Conservative candidate for the Kent seat of Sittingbourne and Sheppey. She is hoping to replace Gordon Henderson, the long-standing Conservative MP for the area.

On her campaign website, Ms Cuthbert writes that Sittingbourne and Sheppey “has had more than its fair share of housing”. She is against Labour’s proposal to reintroduce mandatory housing targets and supports the Conservative policy to make them advisory, with “local people having a say on where housing should be placed”.

Electoral Calculus gives Ms Cuthbert a 29% chance of winning the seat, with Labour’s Kevin McKenna on 70%.

Tom Wilson, Labour candidate for Richmond and Northallerton

Tom Wilson is the former engagement manager at PricedOut, a campaign group calling for the government to build more homes and reduce the cost of housing. He is standing against prime minister Rishi Sunak in the Yorkshire seat of Richmond and Northallerton.

He told Inside Housing: “The housing crisis is linked to so many of the problems our country is now faced with, from our tepid growth rate, higher taxes and languishing public services. The state of the housing market, alongside all these things, absolutely informed my decision to stand for election.

“We need a government willing to put the national interest first, to get Britain building and growing again. I am particularly enthused by Labour’s pledges to reform planning and build 1.5 million houses in its first term, which together could kick-start growth and see more first-time buyers able to join the housing ladder.”

Electoral Calculus gives Mr Wilson a 37% chance of winning Richmond and Northallerton, with Mr Sunak on 63%.

Shama Tatler, Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green

Shama Tatler is standing against Iain Duncan Smith to be the first ever Labour MP for the east London seat of Chingford and Woodford Green. She has been a Brent councillor since 2014 and has held the regeneration, planning and growth brief since 2016.

At Brent, Ms Tatler has worked on some of London’s biggest development schemes, including Wembley Park and the ongoing regeneration of South Kilburn estate.

She told Inside Housing: “For far too long, the Tories have ignored the housing crisis. When there is a crisis, you need to face up to it, and Labour will do that. A Labour government will bring the biggest boost to affordable housing in a generation – that’s something to get excited about!  

“A major reason why I wanted to stand as an MP is because I have seen the immense challenges councils face when trying to build new homes, due to cumbersome, slow planning processes. The Labour party will reform our planning rules, ensuring we can unlock the opportunity to build more homes, in the right places.

“As an MP, I will work to ensure that planning policy is developed in partnership with the community. Their voices must not be lost in this process.”

Electoral Calculus gives Ms Tatler an 81% chance of winning the seat, with Mr Duncan Smith on 19%.

Alex Diner, Labour candidate for Harwich and North Essex

Alex Diner is a senior housing researcher at the New Economics Foundation think-tank. Most recently, he contributed to a report on reforming Right to Buy, which called for the policy to be devolved to councils.

Mr Diner is standing in Harwich and North Essex against incumbent Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin. “In my day job, I work to improve access to social and affordable housing,” he told the Harwich and Manningtree Standard.

“Here in north Essex, many young people can’t afford their dream home. That barrier to opportunity is one I’m keen to tackle and is something I would bring my expertise to in parliament and locally.”

Electoral Calculus gives Mr Diner a 68% chance of winning the seat, with Mr Jenkin on 31%.

Jennifer Riddell Carpenter, Labour candidate for Suffolk Coastal

Jenny Riddell Carpenter is standing to be the first Labour MP for Suffolk Coastal. She is looking to unseat incumbent Conservative MP Thérèse Coffey, who was deputy prime minister under Liz Truss’s short-lived stint as prime minister.

Ms Riddell Carpenter is currently managing director at Cratus Group, the PR and planning consultancy. She previously worked at the Built Environment Communications Group, See Media PR and L&Q, the large London housing association where she was head of merger communications.

Her campaign website says: “My job as managing director at a prominent national communications agency means that I am experienced in leading complex national campaigns that deliver positive change.

“I’ve led campaigns tackling big issues such as infrastructure and transport, social housing, the UK’s housing crisis, fuel poverty, and the creation of employment opportunities for some of the most hard-to-reach communities in the UK.”

Electoral Calculus gives Ms Riddell-Carpenter a 56% chance of winning Suffolk Coastal, with Ms Coffey on 44%.

Antonia Bance, Labour candidate for Tipton and Wednesbury

Antonia Bance is head of campaigns and communications at the Trades Union Congress. From 2011-14, she was head of campaigns for the homelessness charity Shelter, leading on campaigns to build more homes and fix private renting.

Ms Bance is Labour’s candidate for Tipton and Wednesbury, a newly formed constituency in the Black Country. Her Conservative opponent is Shaun Bailey, the current MP for West Bromwich West.

Electoral Calculus gives Ms Bance a 96% chance of winning her seat, with Mr Bailey on 3%.

Mike Reader, Labour candidate for Northampton South

Mike Reader describes himself as a “passionate advocate for the built environment”. He is currently director of work winning at Mace, the construction company and consultancy. He previously spent 10 years at Pick Everard, the architectural consultancy.

Mr Reader is looking to unseat Conservative Andrew Lewer in Northampton South. He is promising a home-upgrades programme to cut energy bills.

His campaign video criticises Northampton’s town-centre redevelopment, which “won’t be finished for at least another decade”.

“My work in construction, delivering in partnership with unions and small businesses, has taught me that we can always overcome the most difficult problems if we’re ambitious enough,” he adds.

Electoral Calculus gives Mr Reader a 67% chance of winning Northampton South, with the Conservatives on 33%.

Nesil Caliskan, Labour candidate for Barking

Nesil Caliskan is leader of Enfield Council and leader of the Local Government Association Labour group. She took over as Labour candidate for Barking after Darren Rodwell withdrew his candidacy, following sexual harassment allegations made against him.

Ms Caliskan’s campaign website claims she has “secured millions to start building council homes” in Enfield, and in-sourced housing repair services. “I’ll fight for good-quality, affordable homes so young people and local families can get on the property ladder here in Barking,” she adds.

Labour has held Barking since 1945, and Ms Caliskan is seeking to replace retiring MP Dame Margaret Hodge. It looks like she’ll get her wish – Electoral Calculus gives her a 100% chance of winning the seat.

Lee Dillon, Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury

Lee Dillon is locality manager at housing association Sovereign Network Group. He has been a councillor in West Berkshire since 2007 and was leader of the council from May 2023 until the election was called.

He is standing in Newbury, Berkshire for the Liberal Democrats against Conservative Laura Farris. Electoral Calculus gives Mr Dillon a 72% chance of winning the seat, with Ms Farris on 27%.

Jonathan Hulley, Conservative candidate for Twickenham

Jonathan Hulley is head of housing for Birketts law firm, where he specialises in social housing. He leads in the delivery and management of affordable housing across England and has also appeared in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court on behalf of his social landlord clients.

He is also a Surrey county councillor and Runnymede borough councillor, where he serves as vice chair of the housing committee.

He is standing in Twickenham against incumbent Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson. Electoral Calculus gives Mr Hulley a 17.5% chance of winning the seat, against 60% for Ms Wilson.

Alan Strickland, Labour candidate for Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor

Alan Strickland was corporate director of external affairs and resident involvement at Southern Housing, previously Optivo, until October 2023. Before that, he spent seven years as cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration at the London Borough of Haringey. He also spent four years as a non-executive director at Sapphire Independent Housing.

Mr Strickland is standing in the new County Durham seat of Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor against Conservative Paul Howell, the MP for the area’s previous constituency Sedgefield. Electoral Calculus gives Mr Strickland a 99% chance of snatching the new seat away from Mr Howell.

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