Tom Richmond: The museum pieces that derail Chris Grayling’s rail claims

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a visit to Yorkshire.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling during a visit to Yorkshire.
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WHEN the 19th century premier Benjamin Disraeli asserted that there were three types of political untruths – “lies, damned lies and statistics” – he could not have been more prescient.

This much is clear after the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s desperate self-justification this week after spending the past six months “snubbing” the North and breaking his pre-election promises.

In a letter sent to MPs this week, and seen by The Yorkshire Post, Mr Grayling claims that transport spending in the three regions that compromise the North now equates to £1,039 per person – and that this compares with the £1,029 being spent in London and the South East.

“However, in recent months, the public debate has been unduly influenced by misleading unofficial analyses which purport to show very large discrepancies in planned spending per head between one region and another,” he wrote. “I hope this analysis helps set the record straight.”

It does not.

Mr Grayling’s arrogance and triteness masks the fact that this region has suffered from decades of under-investment by successive governments, and the scale of the North-South divide was self-evident when I returned to Leeds this week following a couple of days ‘down south’.

In Leeds just before the evening rush-hour, there were so many Pacer trains – two-carriage rattletraps – that I thought the National Railway Museum had been relocated to West Yorkshire.

Contrast this with London Waterloo, Mr Grayling’s station, where there are still insufficient platforms to handle all the slick trains that serve the terminus. Though some were four carriages long, most were at least double that length.

And then there’s the official figures that Jesse Norman, the Local Transport Minister who deputised for Mr Grayling in a Commons debate on Northern Powerhouse rail, released in a written answer last month. According to his arithmetic, investment in capital projects – new road and rail schemes as opposed to day-to-day spending – is £115 per person in Yorkshire this year. By way of comparison, the figure for the South East is £180 and rises to £298 in London.

And Mr Norman adds this caveat: “This Department focuses on delivering outcomes for transport users, not on spending per head.”

Perhaps he should tell his boss. Quite how Mr Grayling arrived at his sums is anyone’s guess – they seem as reliable as the late-running trains on my local line – but this cavalier letter to MPs does show the extent to which he has lost the political argument, and confidence of the travelling public in Yorkshire, in 2017.

I ASSUME Sir Bob Kerslake, the one-time chief executive of Sheffield Council before becoming head of the Civil Service, quit as head of a London hospital trust so he could spend more time advising Jeremy Corbyn.

The cross-bench peer, who has been tutoring the Labour leader on what it takes to be Prime Minister, either thinks a Corbyn government will occur sooner rather than later – or the job is proving much harder than he envisaged.

Do tell (Lord) Bob.

TALKING of Jeremy Corbyn, he missed a gift at Prime Minister’s Questions when Theresa May, in response of exchanges on housing, talked about a desire to “encourage longer-term tenancies”.

A sharper politician might have mocked Mrs May’s tenancy of 10 Downing Street. Yet, while the Tory leader looks like she’s enjoying the job (to a degree), Mr Corbyn appears troubled.

Is it because he knows, in his heart, that he’s missed his best chance to become PM?

NICKY Morgan, the former Education Secretary (and now Tory rebel), talked a lot of sense in the House of Commons this week when she suggested that Parliamentary select committee scrutinese the Brexit plans – and readiness – of each Government department.

As head of the powerful Treasury select committee, she would have a key role to play in making sure that Britain’s exit from the European Union is as smooth as possible. Given that I made this suggestion shortly after Theresa May came to power, I’m flabbergasted such scrutiny is only being considered now.

It should have started last year. After all, Brexit is supposed to be about the sovereignty of Parliament.

The fact that Ms Morgan, and respected former ministers like Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke, are rebelling is because they know – from experience – that governments make poorer decisions when not challenged or scrutinised.

TWO observations from this week’s ‘mini freeze’. When main roads – including motorways – are blocked for hours because of snow, what happens when Britain’s new fleet of electric cars run out of power?

Furthermore, why are solar panels not being routinely fitted to all new homes? They would have been more effective than wind turbines not turning on those piercingly cold days, under clear blue skies, when demand is at its greatest.

TWO down in the Ashes series, Joe Root managed to find time before the latest Test to take to his Instagram account to promote a sponsor’s product.

His time would have been better spent in his nets – or keeping his rabble of a team out of Perth’s hostelries.

FIFTY years ago Henry Cooper was crowned BBC Sports Personality of Year ahead of two Yorkshire legends – cyclist Beryl Burton and the showjumper Harvey Smith. True personalities and household names unlike some of the brilliant, but bland competitors vying for British sport’s ulitmate prize tomorrow night.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk