Chris Grayling has found himself in the naughty corner today over a leaked letter — to the Evening Standard — from 2013, which appears to show he opposed handing over control of suburban rail to keep it ‘out of the clutches’ of Labour. This is embarrassing — at the very least — for the Transport Secretary as just yesterday Grayling formally rejected Sadiq Khan’s bid to take over commuter routes. Giving the reason for the rejection, Grayling claimed the proposals amounted to ‘deckchair shifting’ with no real improvement for passengers.
As Labour accused Grayling of putting party politics before the interests of commuters, Bob Neill — the Conservative MP — added himself to the voices of discontent. On the Daily Politics, Neill said Grayling had ‘compromised his position’ and should resign. Neill said that the letter shows that Grayling had not been honest with him when he campaigned at the last mayoral election in favour of rail devolution. While Neill is a backbencher, his comments cannot be dismissed as those of a disgruntled MP throwing his toys out of the pram. As chair of the justice committee, Neill is highly-regarded in the Commons as a principled politician.
It follows that Grayling will need to come up with a convincing justification for his actions if he is to continue in the role with the full support of his party. While Grayling could argue in his defence that he was not Transport Secretary at the time and so his interests — as a local constituency MP — differed back then, this just feeds into a wider problem with government accountability. If ministers move patch every couple of years, it’s difficult to hold anyone to account when a policy turns out to be a dud. Rather than resign, commuters would be better served if Grayling stuck around long enough to put party politics to one side and actually improve the situation.
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