By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
Take it or leave it In a bid to head off at the pass any potential amendments to the Brexit Bill, David Davis has confirmed that which was expected; that MPs will get a vote on the final terms. However, it is unlikely to achieve this bid. Rather than being the ‘significant climbdown’ pointed to by Keir Starmer, the agreement to a vote is a moot one. When questioned in the Commons on whether a no-vote would mean leaving the EU with no new deal, Mr Davis rose to simply reply ‘yes’, before retaking his seat. As tweeted by Tory backbencher Heidi Allen on the ability to agree a revised deal following such vote, ‘there’d be no time!’. And which MP would want that on their record? However, this runs deeper. With cross-party support for various amendments building, and with over 400 amendments made at the time of writing, Theresa May’s fragile majority looks under pressure. The odds of her exit before March next year have shortened (2/1), and will doubtless do so further if she loses the vote.
Open data The PropTech industry has been given a shot in the arm in the form of a massive free data release from the Land Registry this week, with more promised to follow. The lack of consistency and centralised availability of data about property has acted as a defensive force against disruption in recent years. Compulsory registration of land commenced in 1990, and 27 years on, 84% of our land mass is now evidenced in over 3 million lines of data. Many will not welcome the prospect of more open data sets, as the pricing efficiencies that this would promote will reduce the potential for skillful, opportunistic gains. However, for institutions who take a longer view, greater transparency would remove some of the risk of investing in property, which should in turn exert downward pressure on yields. Indexes, such as IPD, and planning portal information form another part of this picture. However, there are much wider data sets around the use of property enabled by smart sensors and big data platforms, that perhaps represent the underwater iceberg, whereas what we see now is its tip.
Back to school Hoping to replicate their office-focused success in the classroom, WeWork has branched out into a new project called WeGrow. No, this is not the medical marijuana supplier dubbed ‘the Wallmart of Weed’ that returns the top hit on Google for this word. Instead, aimed initially at the private pre-prep / junior school market, the operation will source buildings and provide teaching services. The concept building design is, as one might expect, suitably aspirational and boundary pushing (plus one day per week in a farm), but the move to becoming teachers is the element that might raise the most eyebrows. The project intends to use the WeWork network of employees and start-up customers to provide children with lessons in business. The blurring of education and business is very deliberate. This is, of course, quite normal in higher education, with link-ups between universities and say life-science campuses being an important component of modern innovation. Moving into primary schools (a potentially lucrative market) feels like a logical step for WeWork; however, it does raise more philosophical questions about early years education.
Doubling up ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’, wrote Shakespeare, in what may have been a founding statement for Twitter.To-date, the social media platform has limited user tweets to just 140 characters (remember SMS messages?). However, proposals are afoot to double this to a generous 280 characters. No longer just a vehicle to post pictures of cats and celebs, modern Twitter is a powerful political tool. Donald Trump is currently tweeting at a run rate of 51 per day, and one wonders what more could be achieved with the extra 7,140 letters at his disposal…Meanwhile, the average length of a New Europe article is a consistent 160 words, and the structure is based on the teachings of George Burns: ‘The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible’.