The government’s approach to the HS2 debate has changed. Up until recently, government sources would wave away the suggestion that Labour might withdraw its support for the project. They’d point to Andrew Adonis and his influence on Ed Miliband to explain why Ed Balls’s doubts about it didn’t matter that much. But this has now changed. They’ve now decided, in the words of one Number 10 figure, that they need to ‘smoke Labour out on the issue’.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll see the Tories trying to put more and more pressure on Labour to say whether or not they’ll back it. Number 10 is acutely aware that, at the moment, Labour’s ambiguous position is simply emboldening opponents of the project, including many Tory MPs.
One striking aspect of this debate is Labour front benchers’ confidence that if they do ditch support for the project it won’t lose them any seats in the northern cities. Given the size of Labour’s majorities in the urban north, they’re almost certainly right.
Nigel Farage, Matthew Parris, Rory Sutherland and Cheryl Gillan will debate whether the government should ‘Stop HS2!‘ on 31 October 2013 in Westminster. Click here to book tickets.Tags: Andrew Adonis, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, HS2, Matthew Parris, Nigel Farage, Rory Sutherland