Posts Tagged ‘Justine Greening’

Cameron needs to put some stick about

11/09/2012, 07:00:57 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Is he a “man or mouse” asked Tory MP Tim Yeo of his own leader and Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago, questioning whether David Cameron has the cojones to press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow.

“Mouse” seems to be the answer judging by how our beleaguered PM is weakly responding to attacks from his own side at the moment – both real and surreal.

This weekend we were treated to the frankly bizarre tale of Zac Goldsmith, the maverick nimby Tory MP for leafy Richmond Park, openly plotting to inveigle Boris Johnson back into the House of Commons by threatening to resign his seat and trigger a by-election if David Cameron ends up supporting that third runway.

Then there’s the tale of Tory backbencher Bob Stewart who admits he was approached by a couple of fellow MPs this summer to act as a “stalking horse” challenger against the Prime Minister – a modern day Sir Anthony Meyer.

Perhaps most significantly is a report yesterday by Gary Gibbon, political editor of Channel Four News. He reckons there is a “grouping” of Tory MPs that regularly meets “in the office of a Tory former minister and privy councillor” with the aim of one of its number becoming a “challenger” to Cameron, perhaps after next May’s local elections.

What’s going wrong? The prime minister’s troops – and indeed his officer class – are lining up to attack him in a way that would have been utterly unthinkable under any previous Tory Leader. We have clearly come a long way since Lord Kilmuir intoned that “loyalty is the Conservative Party’s secret weapon”.

But loyal to what? There is no sense that Cameron has spawned an age of hegemony in the way Thatcher or Blair both did. By dabbling across the ideological divide – a support for gay marriage here, a bash the welfare scroungers there, David Cameron ends up trusted by no-one.


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HS2: The evidence finally catches up with the government

18/06/2012, 07:00:15 AM

by Ben Mitchell

The future of High Speed Two (HS2) hangs in the balance. Just writing this sentence seems preposterous, considering the amount of time and effort that has gone into hyping up its supposed benefits. The government’s high speed fantasy looks like it will become just that.

This is meant to be the great transport project of our age; enthusiastically backed by ministers, dreamt up by Labour. Barely six months after receiving the official go-ahead, the wheels are starting to come off. Once vaunted, yet now being mentioned in lukewarm terms at best.

According to the Spectator, it has been told that HS2 is “effectively dead,” with “momentum draining,” and only David Cameron’s personal support keeping it on “life support.” Missing from the Queen’s speech, supposedly being held back for another year, the coalition’s solitary nod to Keynes is getting the equivalent of the ministerial cold shoulder. Several cold shoulders, if reports are to be believed.

The Spectator alleges that the current transport secretary, Justine Greening, was never an unequivocal backer in the mould of her predecessor, Philip Hammond. Most significantly, the man with the purse strings, Chancellor George Osborne, has apparently turned against it, citing capacity problems at Britain’s airports as a bigger priority. At least they’ve realised the folly of one idea, only to replace it with the folly of another. We shall see.

Back in January, I wrote a lengthy piece tackling the arguments in favour of HS2. It seems the evidence has finally caught up with the government.

The cost was always going to come back to bite minsters where it hurt. With the total of the full Y-network (that’s London to Birmingham, and then on to Leeds and Manchester) nudging up from £32.7bn last year to £36.4bn this year (this is before we include rolling stock capital: £8.15bn, and operating costs: a further £21.7bn. Follow the above link and see page 37 for a complete breakdown), and wider economic benefits falling year on year, or every other month, as has been the case this year, the government’s grip appears to be loosening with every new evaluation.

Readers of last November’s transport select committee report into HS2 (of which I admit to being one such nerd), won’t be in the least bit surprised by the unravelling of the case for.


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