Tom Richmond: Is Boris on board with Tories’ rail policy?
Her challenge, having taken a far-reaching decision, is to persuade HS2’s opponents to consider the economic benefits to the North rather than exaggerating its impact on the Home Counties, areas that already have first-rate transport links into London.
Greening’s first task should be to ask whether her Conservative colleague Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is on board the HS2 express – or not.
I’m certainly not sure after he tried to emulate Donald Rumsfeld, President George W Bush’s defence secretary, with these utterances: “There are important aspects of HS2 which are not right. This is not the end of campaigning against HS2.
“This is not even the end of the beginning. This is the beginning of the middle of the beginning. There is no point spending this much on something which doesn’t work properly.”
I can understand the timing of Johnson’s opposition – he is up for re-election this year, he wants to be centre-stage during the opening ceremony for the London Olympics and he knows many of his voters are perturbed at the disruption that will be caused when Euston Station has to be rebuilt.
Yet, given how he regards himself as a senior Tory, does he support his party’s policy on HS2? For, if he does not, how can he remain within the Conservative ranks – or is disloyalty now permitted?
Of course, the needs of Londoners and the Home Counties should not be ignored – and this is reflected by an additional £500m that will be spent on tunnelling work in the Chilterns.
However, Ministers need to do more to advocate the benefits to the North. They can do so by taking the argument to Johnson and his like who seem to contend that the North can make do with existing rail services. It cannot.
PETER Mandelson, it is reported, is one of several ex-Ministers allegedly concealing their business interests from the House of Lords.
By setting themselves up as consultants, they do not have to disclose the firms who they are accepting money from.
It leaves them open to potential conflicts of interests and underlines, again, the need to make the Lords fully elected.
Yet there is a simple solution in the meantime. Unless peers disclose their business interests, including who they are advising as “consultants”, then they should forego their Lords expenses.
And, if they then still refuse to comply, they should be excluded from Parliament. Any objections?
AS the trade unions attempt, again, to drag Ed Miliband to the political left, Keighley MP Kris Hopkins is among those to warn David Cameron about the dangers of surrendering the centre ground.
The backbencher is reportedly one of the people behind the newly-formed 301 Group – 301 being the number of seats Cameron needs to win at the next election, following boundary changes, in order to form an outright majority.
“All successful Conservative candidates in 2010 were elected on a very broad policy platform. It was not just about so-called traditional Tory areas such as law and order, immigration and Europe,” says Hopkins.
He is right. The problem is that every PM in my lifetime has started sabre-rattling on these three issues at the first sign of voter dissatisfaction and Cameron is no different.
WHAT a shame that there were so few MPs in the House of Commons just after 10.30pm on Monday for a debate that showed Parliament at its best.
The subject was Rotherham’s pioneering Imagination Library, where every child under the age of five receives a free book once a month to inspire a love of reading, and whether it could be extended.
It was led by Wentworth MP John Healey, with Schools Minister Nick Gibb responding for the Government. Coincidentally, both men were first elected in May 1997.
What was clear was their passion for the issue – and their mutual respect. It gave one confidence that Healey’s points will be taken seriously by the Minister.
If only the same could have been said seven hours earlier when Labour’s shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg clashed with Michael Gove about schools funding – and Royal yachts. Their disdain for each other was self-evident.
But I do just want to raise this point – just what is an Education Secretary doing in advocating a new Royal yacht when the Queen can pay for a new floating holiday home out of her own wealth if she so desires?
SOME good news – Transport Minister Mike Penning told MPs that he has had first-hand experience of congestion on the A64 from York to Scarborough
The bad news – his promise to attend a meeting suggests that there’s little prospect of the green light being given to improvements.
BOB Champion, the Guisborough jockey who conquered cancer before winning the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti and becoming a charity fund-raiser, was asked the other day what he would do if he was Prime Minister for the day.
His response will resonate with many: “I would only allow people to become MPs if they had their own business, or had been top businessmen. Some of them at the moment wouldn’t know how to run a corner shop.”
WILL Yorkshire benefit from the Olympics? I don’t think so? Why? Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s department sent out a missive, saying the Minister had, had “a fantastic day” in Leeds and York several hours before he met individuals to discuss how the regions can benefit from the Games.
How about listening – and learning – Minister?