Even though a significant number of Conservative MPs oppose the new high speed rail line, the focus for the past few weeks has been on what Labour plans to do about it, with a new ‘clear’ position coming from the party almost every day. Labour support now looks a little more likely given the language used by Mary Creagh at the report stage and third reading of the preparation bill last week. And while the fuss about Labour has died down a little, David Cameron is wisely seeking to wrestle back the agenda on this project from the Opposition.
In a speech today to the CBI, Cameron will use one of his favourite lines at the moment: the accusation that Labour would be ‘betraying the North’ if it didn’t support the new line. The Prime Minister will say:
‘Those who want to delay or obstruct HS2 show a lack of vision. They are playing politics with Britain’s prosperity. They are betraying everyone North of Watford. And they want to condemn Britain to the slow lane.
‘We can either tell our grandchildren we made big, long-term decisions to build a better country… Or we can tell them we dithered for decades while the world raced ahead. That kind of no-can-do spirit will get us nowhere. Fortune favours the bold – not the weak and indecisive.’
What a shame the Prime Minister doesn’t take his own advice when it comes to this country’s aviation policy. But as well as these blunt threats at Labour, Cameron is also trying to get ahead where he can on the project’s major weak spot: its budget. The Prime Minister will announce today that the new HS2 head Sir David Higgins will examine how to bring it in under budget as well as how to ensure all parts of the country benefit, which would in effect meet the tests set by Ed Balls at the Labour conference.
One other thing to look out for in the next few months is the effort by the whips to drive down the Tory rebellion. That it is being led by Andrew Bridgen, a notorious opponent of Cameron, might not bode well as Bridgen was also key in the defeat on Syria. But it also means that should backbenchers be reasonably well disposed to the PM when the big HS2 votes come round, they could see. Bridgen as too toxic to side with.Tags: HS2, UK politics