EDUCATION, TRAINING & LOCAL LINKS HUGELY PREFERRED TO HS2
It might seem a random way to start this piece, but Thursday I’ve always seen as a bit of a nothing day: nobody eats at Thank God it’s Thursday, and it isn’t Wednesday when you can often look forward to some footie on the box. It isn’t Monday, thus allowing you to look miserable all day. Nobody’s called Thursday Weld – and it isn’t Friday, where the entire day is a preparation for getting bladdered in the evening. Only one song – Thursday’s Child by David Bowie – has ever charted impressively.
So I thought we should have some real news to liven it up. And as Thursday’s Child has far to go, what better subject to feature than the ill-starred HS2 project.
One can sum up the minority, unrepresentative nature of the UK’s Party system by use of the HS2 fiasco. The budget keeps going up, the CEO gets paid £750,000 a year, nobody wants to get to either Birmingham or Manchester any sooner than they have to, and the payback/ROI projections are a joke, about which the senior Sir Humphrey told the PAC of the Commons, “We made it all up”. The Budget – which started at £30bn – had already increased to £40bn, and not an inch of track has been laid.
The Grant Thornton company has just completed a research project, asking 100 British CEOs about their preferences for infrastructural investment. Not one respondent put HS2 as the top priority. They saw education and training as the key issue (funny that) and their general view was that the whole rationale of HS2 is wrong: they think local links are where investment is required, fully 81% of northern-based CEOs saying that a trans-Pennine railway linking the major northern cities should be a priority. As the HS2 thing is supposed to make the North more inclusive, this is damning condemnation indeed.
But HS2 will happen if David Cameron has his way, because he wants a legacy. Thus far, the Draper has saved £29bn with social expenditure cuts affecting in the region of 8.5 million people. But we’re about to blow £40bn on one man’s ego.
If the Ed Miller Band ever does get into power, they’ll have to share it with at least one other Party. What will they do about HS2? In 2013, the Party’s statements about it were an odd mélange of “probably no but we’re still looking at its advantages” – reflecting its problem: they’re split down the middle about it.Come October that year, they said they’d support it if the costs came down.
As we’ve seen, the costs have gone UP by a third. However, by April 2014 Mary Creagh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, ‘reaffirmed’ (hahaha) Labour’s commitment to High Speed Rail 2. On November 5th, Ed chucked half his advisers on the bonfire, but Labour contacts assure me that the Party is still right behind HS2.
So as usual, Labour isn’t going to Oppose a complete waste of money. Its Northern MPs are insisting HS2 is supported…even though their own constituents don’t want it.
I can promise you, the Miliband Wriggly Worm Tendency will find a way to ‘package’ their policy. My best bet is that, as business wants a Trans-Pennine Railway, the Muswell Hillbillies will go for an HS2 with trans-gender lavatories and changing rooms.
In short, all the usual signs are there: spending out of control, nobody listening to the customer, no real opposition to the sloppy megalomania of Camerlot, and a Labour ‘élite’ obsessively focused on minority, half-baked ideology.