There was no chance the Conservatives could come to Manchester, with a row over the future of high-speed rail raging, and not make a big thing of the proposed new railway line. But as I explained in my Telegraph column last week, the party knew that a little crafty rebranding wouldn’t go amiss, and so when Patrick McLoughlin spoke to conference this morning, he placed as much emphasis on the uniting power of the new ‘north-south’ line as he did on the economic or capacity-based arguments that the government have focused on so far. He said:
‘So here in Manchester I am proud to support HS2 – the new north-south line. Just as I’m proud to support it in cities like Sheffield. Leeds. Nottingham. Derby. Glasgow. Birmingham. In all the great cities of our country.
‘Now I promise you – I hear the critics. Boy, do I hear the critics. But the truth is we need a new north-south line to make our country stronger.’
The problem is that HS2, north-south line, south-north line, or whatever you want to call it, may well be a symbol of north-south unity, but it’s becoming a symbol of Tory disunity. Key agitators tell me they are plotting mischief on this in the next few months. Watch this space.Tags: Conservative conference 2013, High-speed rail, UK politics