THE Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, clearly hasn’t spent much time, if any, travelling on Yorkshire’s trains. If he did, he might understand why passengers feel insulted by hisjustification for next month’s 2.3 per cent increase.
To say wages are rising faster than fares beggars belief – and is totally at odds with Theresa May’s sympathy for those families ‘just about managing’. Even though a record number of people are travelling by train, and new sources of funding need to be secured for the upgrading of existing routes, it does not justify an increase when so many passengers are already paying the privilege for travelling on desperately overcrowded trains at peak times.
This is not the fault of Mr Maynard – the issue of overcrowding is the consequence of decades of under-investment – but it does fall to him to explain why commuters between Leeds and Halifax fear being crushed because the commissioning of new rolling stock has not kept pace with increases in passenger numbers. Or the travellers so squeezed for space on services from Dewsbury to Leeds that they have to stand in the toilet compartment – or those travellers in East Yorkshire who feel particularly piqued by the Minister’s decision to block the electrification of the TransPennine line from Selby to Hull.
At a time when the Government is imploring people to curtail car usage, all these commuters – and many more – have good reason to be aggrieved by the stance of a Minister who should be arguing that even greater investment in Britain’s railways, on top of existing commitments, is an investment in this country’s future prosperity. It’s that urgent and can’t wait for HS2 20 years down the line to supposedly solve everything.
GIVEN HOW the promised return of Parliamentary sovereignty underpinned the Brexit campaign, it’s perplexing that Boris Johnson chose not to make his first major policy speech on foreign affairs on the floor of the House of Commons where he could have been cross-examined by elected MPs. What was he hiding from?
In choosing the Chatham House think-tank to deliver his 3,802-word oration, Beyond Brexit: A Global Britain, the verbose Foreign Secretary simply drew attention to the fact that he actually had, in fact, very little to say on the fraught process of Britain’s exit from the European Union which helped to hand the Lib Dems a shock by-election win in Richmond Park.
The vacuum at the heart of Theresa May’s government cannot continue much longer after a week which saw Mr Johnson appearing to inform at least four ambassadors that he still backs the free movement of EU citizens – a position still to be adopted by the Cabinet collectively – as exasperated colleagues were forced to second guess the mind of an unconventional politician who is, to all intents and purposes, Britain’s most senior diplomat.
No amount of blustering on Mr Johnson’s part gets away from the fact that this country’s future in the world, as a great economy and bedrock of international security and stability, will be shaped by the manner of its departure from the EU. Leaving aside court action to determine who is responsible for triggering Article 50, it is wrong of Ministers to circumvent the Commons like this – the Foreign Secretary’s Parliamentary hero, Winston Churchill, would not have done so.
Manuel mourned: Fawlty Towers was faultless TV
THE most hapless waiter in Britain, Andrew Sachs was also the most loved thanks to his role as the bungling Spanish assistant in the legendary television series Fawlty Towers. One of the most accomplished actors of his generation after his family fled Nazi Germany, a lifetime of stage performances were always going to be eclipsed by 12 episodes of a comedy programme co-written by John Cleese – the Monty Python star played hotel manager Basil Fawlty himself – and his inspired choice of sidekick.
Sachs played the part to perfection, the comic capers at a farcical hotel becoming part of broadcasting folklore because of its unique humour and Cleese’s decision not to write a third series because he feared viewers would become bored of the show’s antics.
There was no chance of this happening thanks to actors of the calibre of Andrew Sachs, hence why his death left many feeling bereft 40 years after Manuel first served up his unique chaos. If only’s today’s so-called comedies were half as funny or original as faultless Fawlty Towers.