Coffee House

Tory HS2 rebel: We need a plan in case Labour drops support

28 April 2014

Whether or not key ministers whose constituencies are affected by HS2 turn out to vote at today’s second reading of the legislation introducing it, the bill will pass this stage with a big majority thanks to cross-party support. Between 20 and 30 MPs are expected to defy the whip and either vote for a motion declining to give the Bill a second reading, or against the second reading itself.

What will be interesting over the next few months is how many concessions critics of the Bill are able to eke out of the government, and whether this buys them off or not. When I spoke to Cheryl Gillan about her proposals for a longer tunnel under the Chiltern area of outstanding natural beauty, she told me that ‘I’m not changing my position on the basis of that in any way, shape or form. I’ve always had a twin track approach saying I don’t think this is the best project but I’ve also got a duty of care to my constituents.’

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But some of the changes that have already been made have been part of an attempt to seal in Labour support for the project. Some Tories, though, worry that this support is still not guaranteed, and that Labour could outflank them by dropping HS2 at an opportune moment and pledging to spend the £50bn on something else. Key rebel Andrew Bridgen tells me:

‘I’m still fairly convinced that Labour are going to take the £50bn in the pot if the polls are close. it’s a no brainer, there’s no point to Labour without money to spend, and where’s the money? It’s irresistible to Ed Balls, it’s like leaving a vampire in charge of a blood bank and it works because so many people don’t want it. With that £50bn Balls could buy off the Northern cities.

‘Politically if we haven’t got a plan for what we’re going to do with that money, we’ll suffer. You can buy a lot of votes in marginal seats. It works on every level to ditch it.’

Balls is, as Coffee House revealed on Saturday, going to vote in favour of the legislation this afternoon. And the Conservative party are hardly going to tell their backbenchers that they do have a contingency plan to spend a spare £50bn if Labour do pull out, even if Andrew Bridgen has pledged his loyalty to the Prime Minister of late.

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Show comments
  • davebush999

    If you are going to build a new high speed railway then build something for the future, ie mag-lev. And you have to include a link to Heathrow and the channel tunnel.

  • realfish

    Bridgen again!

    HS2 follows the line of the M42 / A42 though his constituency – the impact on the marginal and largely unattractive land there (much of it formerly industrial or coal mining) is minimal.

    Perhaps his rebellions have something to do with his NW Leics seat being a Labour target (or a likely win for them once the ‘KIPpers have eaten in to his majority).

  • you_kid

    How to save a load of money?
    I would just talk about a project, any project, for a decade, commission a whack of studies and designs, pay loads of consultants and legal fees, compensate residents for the inconvenience of sleepless nights and then Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
    BANANA Britain.

  • Agrippina

    The southern MPs affected by HS2, should look at the concessions made for their colleague in Tatton.

    Daily Telegraph 28.01.2014 – by David Millward & Gordon Rayner, ‘The
    Govt faced claims of hypocrisy after it emerged that the northern section
    of the HS2 network, the route of which was unveiled on Monday, would include a
    £600 million “detour” around parts of the Chancellor’s seat of Tatton in Cheshire.

    While the Government insisted on slicing straight through the Chilterns when
    the London to Birmingham section of HS2 was made public in 2010, it has shown
    greater flexibility in the north, leading to accusations that the route had
    been tailored to avoid angering Mr Osborne’s constituents.

    Critics said the dog-leg, in which the line doubles back on itself at one
    point, would add at least six miles to the route between Birmingham and
    Manchester, with each mile adding £93 million to the cost’.

    • realfish

      The dog-leg that you refer to enables HS2 to continue north to a point on the West coast main line near Wigan, the triangular junction permitting HS trains to travel north from Manchester to an eventual extension in Scotland.

      The route travels through Osborne’s constituency for around 15-20 km, the so called ‘dog-leg’ taking the railway alongside the M56 towards Manchester Airport for much of its length.

      To take HS2 in a straight line from Crewe would deny HS running to Wigan and a connection to Merseyside; in a straight line from Warrington would take it through three large lakes; east of Knutsford would encounter geographical difficulties.

      I do admit thought the logical route chosen for HS2 does provide the antis with a stick to beat the Chancellor with.

      PS: In the earlier thread you alleged that Osborne had had the route (which is still the subject of consultation) changed. You still have not provided any evidence.

  • Mark McIntyre

    NO2 HS2 – the only plan – of attack !

  • Colonel Mustard

    It is fantastic that political parties are now squabbling about ways to spend money that they don’t have. Anyone with half a brain knows that this project will be a disaster and that the only beneficiaries will be the corporate bloodsuckers, many of them foreign, who will ruthlessly exploit British government incompetence when it comes to tendering and managing projects to ensure maximum profit at minimum risk.

    White elephant doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    • Alexsandr

      well we have seen how useless the DfT is over franchising. Who in their right mind would give them a £50bn project to manage.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    You know what, there is no fifty billion quid. It does not become money as soon as it is earmarked. It is only going to be a lot more government debt until such time as they rip it from our pockets. It is totally fallacious to talk as if the money is there as soon as HS2 is voted in and could be used for something else if HS2 is subsequently cancelled.

    The only viable plan is to drop HS2.

    • Kitty MLB

      Another of those white elephant vanity projects. People still prefer travelling
      by car. Yet they say this will help business, but by the time its completed the business world and artificial technology would have improved significantly,
      whereas less people will be travelling.
      Europe and Japan are mentioned rather a lot, but this is a somewhat small
      island in comparison. And rather a lot of our small rural and suburban train lines etc.. could do with some tender loving care.

  • In2minds

    Lenghty post which omits to say that the public, who will pay for it, don’t want it!

  • Blindsideflanker

    The only reserve plan the Conservatives could have would be to get rid of Cameron. This is Cameron’s vanity project, every basis on which the project has been proposed, speed , cost , development has been shown to be rubbish. Cameron when required to take a position on something, unerring always makes the wrong choice. HS2 is just another example of it , but here he is so wrapped up in it, if it goes, then he has to go.

    • Tony_E

      It’s a project that was invented by Andrew Adonis (Labour transport minister in the Blair government).

      There has been no new rail north of London in 100 years, capacity is creaking. What would you do instead?

      • monty61

        Go West instead. Revitalise Swindon and Bristol and Plymouth.

        • realfish

          HS3 to the West? That was one of UKIPs three HS promises in their 2010 manifesto.

          But initially, Britain’s biggest cities and conurbations – in the Midlands and North – are the priority.

          • Alexsandr

            yes. improve trans pennine to get a quick leeds-manchester link. (I know they are going to electrify Manchester York but it needs more than that)

      • Andy

        Restore the old Central Mainline. Be a damn sight cheaper and could be a high speed line.

      • Blindsideflanker

        If it just a bit tokenism to build a railway I am sure we can find a bit a waste ground on which to lay a mile or two of track, so we can say ‘look there is a new bit of railway we have built’ for that will be just as useful and a dammed sight less expensive than HS2.

        As for capacity, by the time HS2 is finished the ability to communicate by video feed will be 1,000 times better than it is now . If they wanted to do anything about highspeed, they should uprate the country’s network cabling.

        And as for the Midlands and North England, their interests would be much better served if we sorted out the intercity connections between them.

        • HookesLaw

          No it is not ‘some tokenism’ — that is just your pathetic invention.

          • Blindsideflanker

            When people believe an important fact in favour of building HS2 is that we haven’t built a railway in a particular area for a 100 years, as Tony-E did, it is not some ‘pathetic invention’ of mine, but an argument based on tokenism.

            The fact that we haven’t built a new railway in an area is a completely irrelevant point, what is is if it makes any economic sense., and by all the markers those in favour of HS2 have put down, like speed, development, cost, it doesn’t.

      • Alexsandr

        fix whats there? Fix where its needed. Euston is not the most overcrowded line

    • Kitty MLB

      Its rather like when some chaps have trouble at home they buy themselves
      a Lamborghini or a Classic Ginetta ( Blair just pranced around on the world stage) Cameron likes his little toy trains ( although admittedly its a second- hand idea from Labour, and Labour really doesn’t work well for the country.)
      As you say, it will cost a fortune, will wreck the countryside and take forever
      to be completed- Man may be walking on the moon by the time its ready
      and the country and technology would have moved on.
      Much better to improve on what we already have.. but that would be far too

      • realfish

        It won’t cost a fortune as things go, it will be far more costly to once again patch up something that will no longer be fit for purpose…and the cost will be spread over 40 years. As for ruining the countryside HS1 didn’t, why should HS2?

        I agree with you about the length of time that it will take, but that I am afraid it why Britain is a laughing stock, the lack of political consensus, short termism, impact assessments, Human Rights, the EU, the media and self interest has meant that any essential infrastructure developments, be it railways or power stations, airports take an eternity.

        I say build the bloody thing now, and move on.

        PS: I live in the Midlands within 4 miles of the proposed line, where do you live as a matter of interest?

        • HookesLaw

          well said

      • HookesLaw

        It is not going to cost 50 billion that figure includes a massive contirgency. The fact that it will take several years to build shows that it is affordable and that Balls has no Magic Pot of instant money available. Spending money on one thing rather than another will not change economic benefit either way … except any ‘bribe’ money from Balls can be expected to be wasteful.

        The pathetic protests over the carefully considered plans for a much needed and overdue infrastructure project show what is wrong about Britain. And that starts with the self serving press.

        • Alexsandr

          only trouble its a badly thought out design.
          now read this:-

          • realfish

            The IEA? And you trust them?
            They were the organisation that claim to be ‘ground breaking researchers’ that misleadingly claimed that HS2 would cost £80m.
            To get to that figure they added costs of infrastructure development that were nothing to do with HS2 – like the Manchester metro and invented and included the cost of a new High Speed line to Liverpool (that isn’t even being proposed).

            • Alexsandr

              trust them more than the useless DfT

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