IT’S nearly two months since I wrote The Yorkshire Post editorial – published on May 9 – which challenged Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to provide a definitive timetable for promised rail improvements in this region.
After he stated in Wakefield “the reality is we made promises and we endeavour to keep our promises”, The Yorkshire Post threw down this gauntlet: “Fair enough Mr Grayling, but when do you expect the Leeds to Manchester line to be electrified and when will the North’s major towns and cities have peak-time services to rival London and the South East? They’re not unreasonable questions to ask during an election.”
So far, there’s been no response forthcoming from Mr Grayling.
The radio silence is all the more ominous given the speed at which David Cameron and George Osborne had to backtrack over similar promises made during the 2015 campaign.
Perhaps Mr Grayling will now act after cross-bench peer and former transport secretary Andrew Adonis – head of the National Infrastructure Commission – published his latest assessment this week on the progress, or lack of, being made on those major construction projects intended to underpin economic growth.
He, too, wants reassurances. “The Government should publish by the end of 2017 a single integrated plan for the first phase of High Speed 3, incorporating proposals for electrifying and upgrading the trans-Pennine (Manchester to Leeds) rail route, plans for the northern sections of HS2, and plans for the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station,” said Lord Adonis.
I’d go further. If this was Mr Grayling’s commuter route in London, or Northern Ireland where the Democratic Unionist Party has just secured £1bn and counting from the Tory ‘magic money tree’ for agreeing to prop up Theresa May’s minority government, the Government would have provided clarity by now.
Why not here?
THE most powerful MPs at Westminster appear to be the 10-strong contingent from the aforementioned Democratic Unionist Party now backing Theresa May’s minority government.
Almost as significant are the 13 Tory MPs from Scotland. They intend to operate as one unit. Not only do Scottish Conservatives need to differentiate themselves from Westminster Conservatives – there’s a difference – to neuter the threat of independence, but it was notable how they rallied behind Andrew Bowie, the new West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP, when he made a very impressive maiden speech in support of farming.
“What farmers and all in the agriculture sector require – what they need now more than anything else – is certainty and stability...not just for the next five years, but for the next 10, 15 and 20 years,” he said.
All the more perplexing that the 15 Conservative MPs representing Yorkshire constituencies seem unwilling to use their collective influence to advance this county’s cause.
For starters, they should put their full weight behind the new campaign for improvements to the notorious A64 bottleneck between York and Scarborough because of its wider economic importance. They shouldn’t need reminding that the Government’s chief whip Gavin Williamson, Mrs May’s power-broker, grew up in Scarborough and will surely be sympathetic if reminded about his family roots.
WHEN the Government signed off a £1bn cheque for Northern Ireland this week, Damian Green – Theresa May’s de facto deputy – refused to be drawn on where the money would come from.
He simply said Ministers could afford to do so because they were presiding over a growing economy.
Sorry, this simply won’t do. Though Labour’s pre-election promises were fanciful, Jeremy Corbyn did, in fact, establish an important principle with his attempt to cost them.
The Tories should do likewise.
Meanwhile I note Mr Green defended the DUP deal by pointing to the money pouring into newly-established city-regions.
The exception? Yorkshire, the one county stuck in the slow lane when it comes to devolution.
Please take note.
THERESA May’s former speechwriter Alasdair Palmer reveals how he was admonished when he spoke to the then Home Secretary about a speech she wanted him to craft about the media.
“Have you been talking to the Home Secretary?” asked now ex-aide Fiona Hill on studying the text. When Mr Palmer confirmed as much, he was ordered by the supposedly ‘special adviser’ to undertake a major rewrite.
When Mr Palmer sugguested it was up to their boss, he says Ms Hill replied: “It’s up to me.”
No wonder the early election backfired.
ONLY Boris Johnson could end up in a row about the pronunciation of Glastonbury in a Queen’s Speech debate on foreign affairs.
“It is “Glahstonbury”; it is in the South West,” insisted the raspberry-sounding Foreign Secretary before having to correct himself.
And he’s still a leading contender to succeed Theresa May. As the Foreign Secretary himself would say, cripes.
GIVEN how Theresa May is being blamed for everything, I suppose it’s her fault that England’s footballers, albeit the under-21s, maintained this country’s inglorious tradition and lost a penalty shootout against the Germans, and that it will be down to her when Sir Andy Murray crashes out of Wimbledon with his sore hip. She just can’t win.