Now that the annual decant to Cannes has drawn to a close, I am left wondering how to judge the mood of this year’s MIPIM – the world’s biggest property show. This was a year of contradictions: not just the capricious weather, but also the prevailing atmosphere of scrutiny that hung heavy over the enthusiastic hospitality.
Rumours of undercover reporters and elaborate sting operations were overblown, with only the Guardian having written anything so far (in their article, here). But this didn’t stop it being a common theme of conversation on the roadside outside Caffé Roma and in the foyer at the Martinez regardless.
Comparing the London stand with five years ago, it was remarkable how far the pendulum had swung from the private to the public sector. Many exhibitors this year were local councils: alongside the venerable City of London Corporation, I spotted Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Croydon, Ealing, Havering, Harrow, Hounslow, Newham and Kingston. Their presence at MIPIM is often criticised in the press. How can local authorities possibly justify spending council tax receipts on an annual jamboree in the south of France? Photograph a council officer holding a champagne glass or on a yacht; print it next to a millennial who can’t afford to buy a new home and you have an instant headline. This is despite the fact that developers actually chip in to cover council attendance costs through sponsorship.
There is actually a better story beneath the surface: why do local authorities attend MIPIM?