Why is David Cameron still backing High Speed 2? It’s controversial inside his party and divisive in the Tory heartlands. Despite a government task force set up to promote the business case for the new railway, the anti-HS2 brigade are winning the war of the words, as evidenced by Fleet Street’s recent attacks on the project. The Mail on Sunday splashed yesterday with leaked analysis on how HS2 is going to result in vast amounts of disruption in beautiful parts of the country. Not exactly a new revelation but the full impact of the construction is only being realised now.
With this knowledge, Melissa Kite argues in the Guardian today that Cameron is only pushing ahead with the railway to engage in some good old class warfare. HS2 was a Labour project, picked up by the Tories to show how the modern Conservative party is working for people of all incomes and backgrounds:
‘David Cameron should have nothing to do with class warfare, given how much he hates being painted as a toff. But from the minute he launched plans to press ahead with High Speed 2, the prime minister allowed a situation to develop whereby a massive rail-building project was sold to the public on the basis that it would only harm posh people with big houses. That untruth is now, finally, being exposed’
Regardless of whether this is the Prime Minister’s true intention and as the war of words continues, pressure will build from MPs who will have to deal with the consequences of HS2 in their constituencies. Before the next general election, Cameron will be faced with a dilemma. Does he change his mind for an easy political and economic life, as well as offering an olive branch to his own MPs, or stick to his guns to provide more rail capacity the country will soon need?
How he responds will go towards defining what kind of Conservative the Prime Minister will be at 2015. Up until now, he’s been viewed as a progressive leader: pro-fracking, pro-house building and pro-growth. But if he u-turns on HS2, as many in his party hope he will, Cameron will be nudging towards a more protective, less radical kind of conservatism.
As I wrote a few months ago, the government have been moving so slowly on HS2 U-turning because ‘it no longer makes sense’ would be not be hard. But it would be a very significant (and arguably sad) step away from the original promise of the Cameroon project.Tags: 2015 general election, David Cameron, HS2, UK politics