Tom Richmond: Cabinet ventures North '“ will they risk the train?

SO Theresa May and her Cabinet are having an away day at Newcastle on Monday to help promote the Great Exhibition of the North headed by Yorkshire's Sir Gary Verity.

Rail services remain in chaos in the region as Theresa May's Cabinet prepares to travel to the North East.
Rail services remain in chaos in the region as Theresa May's Cabinet prepares to travel to the North East.

They better leave London now if they’re intending to travel by train to these parts to show solidarity with long-suffering commuters. I don’t suppose they will. Chris Grayling, the Macavity-like Transport Secretary, missed his latest Commons inquisition because, believe it or not, he was flying to the Farnborough Airshow – the Hampshire town is less than 40 miles from Westminster.

Yet at least Mrs May acknowledged the region’s transport difficulties at Prime Minister’s Questions: “I believe that constituents deserve a rail service that provides for them and their needs. I recognise the problems that have been experienced on Northern.”

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It’s a start in a week that began with dozens of Northern services cancelled on Sunday because too many drivers had been allowed to book time off in case England reached the World Cup final.

But it’s not good enough. The Prime Minister – and her 10 Downing Street team – have yet to respond to the joint editorial, published by The Yorkshire Post and newspapers across the North, on June 12 in the wake of the disastrous introduction of a new timetable.

This is hitting business. This is impinging upon families. And it’s also exasperating voters. As Labour MP Lisa Nandy said this week: “The chaos over the railways is a much more fundamental issue for my constituency than ongoing dialogue over Brexit.”

Yet, with, shamefully, no Northern MP in the Department for Transport and trust non-existent in Mr Grayling following a succession of misjudgments and his desire to put London’s transport needs before those of the rest of the country, the anger is palpable.

It will also intensify if there’s any credence to growing speculation that the Transport Secretary is preparing to announce the downgrading of plans to electrify the trans-Pennine railway line between Leeds and Manchester.

Long-distance trains operated by TransPennine Express now rival Northern’s local services for their unreliability and poor punctuality.

For this reason, Mrs May must use next week’s Cabinet to accelerate compensation payments to passengers, confirm that the trans-Pennine upgrades will be viewed as a national priority and announce that Transport for the North will be given full financial and policy powers needed to sort out this shambles after a junior minister in the Lords said on Thursday that this was not possible because it is important to maintain “coherence and integrity” across the national network.

Nonsense. It’s called ‘taking back control’, a notion the Prime Minister should be all too familiar with thanks to Brexit.

I WAS aghast to see Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss, who grew up in Leeds, described earlier this week as a ‘rising star’.

I’m not sure what she’s done to merit this particular praise – she’s the former Remain-supporting Minister who now says she’s a Leaver. So much for principles.

And this is the same politician whose inept response – as Environment Secretary – to the 2015 floods will never be forgotten here in Yorkshire.

It’s a desperate indictment on the calibre and competence of Ministers if Ms Truss is regarded as a ‘rising star’ – her handling of the floods remains on a par with Chris Grayling’s mismanagement of the railways.

TALKING of under-performing Ministers, I’m surprised that Brexiteer-in-chief Jacob Rees-Mogg is being given so much liberty to hold the Government to ransom on a daily basis.

Given that he will be accused of cowardice if he does not stand for the Tory leadership, why hasn’t he been offered a Ministerial job in a ‘put up or shut up’ ultimatum? After all, it would give the Government – and country – a chance to see if he’s cut out for higher office and has any answers to the UK’s social and economic challenges. Like the North.

JACOB Rees-Mogg heads the European Research Group of Conservative MPs which appears to have been co-ordinating the resignations of Brexit-supporting Ministers and Parliamentary aides. Why? When Scott Mann became the ninth member of the Government to quit, there was no date on the perfunctory letter that was sent by the North Cornwall MP to Theresa May. As a former postman, he should have known better.

THOUGH I tried to follow Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake’s speech in Monday’s tetchy trade debate, I was more intrigued by the dialogue taking place between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Amber Rudd, the Remain-supporting former Home Secretary. What could they have been discussing? A joint leadership bid? Stranger things have happened.

THIS week’s Brexit votes might have been even closer if Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara had attended. He cited illness. Also missing were the past and present leaders of the Lib Dems.

Yet, given Mr O’Mara is still to make a maiden speech following his election on June 8, 2017, sympathy is in short supply. Either he’s a full-time MP – or he steps down. Which is it?

AN omen for Boris Johnson? As the former Foreign Secretary made his resignation speech, a horse called Trouble And Strife was winning a race at Lingfield from a filly called Brexitmeansbrexit who hasn’t now won in nine starts.

The irony...