Yesterday, Surveyor magazine asked if Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin was right in his assertion that the argument over Hs2 had been won. This was my reply.
He’s absolutely right – and here’s why..
Let’s deal with a few political realities, shall we? The general election exposed the anti hs2 camp as toothless. They have no political clout & their ‘no votes for you with Hs2’ campaign failed to deliver them any political influence whatsoever – even in their supposed heartlands of the Chilterns & Warks. The cold, hard fact is – when it comes to voting for their MP, people have far wider concerns than HS2. The anti Hs2 campaign is in complete denial of this political reality & takes refuge in opinion polls. Their problem is – opinion polls don’t elect politicians, voters do!
In the context of real political power, opinion polls are meaningless. The antis can claim 88% (or whatever) ‘oppose’ Hs2 because they grumble about it in an opinion poll, but if that doesn’t translate into votes – it’s worthless.
Back in the real world, we’ve had a party that made it crystal clear that it was going to press ahead with Hs2 if it was returned to Government. Complaints that there was no ‘real debate’ about Hs2 are simply sour grapes from supporters of a campaign that was never going to win. The anti Hs2 campaign hoped UKIP would be the cavalry that would ride to their rescue but that was never going to happen.
So, McLoughlin is right. The argument has been won. There’s no credible opposition to Hs2, there’s simply a dwindling number of folks who complain about it but who can’t stop it.
In the next 18 months this number will shrink even more as the Hs2 petitioning process is settled and more people are compensated for genuine losses. By the end of 2016 the Hs2 Hybrid Bill will receive Royal Assent & construction will start in 2017 (although enabling works will start in 2016). That means, by the time of the next election, Phase 1 will have been under construction for nearly 4 years & the phase 2 Hybrid Bill will have begun its course through Parliament.
With that in mind, does anyone seriously believe that UKIP (if they haven’t disappeared in internecine warfare) will still oppose Hs2? Or even the Greens – bearing in mind there’s many Greens who are unhappy with the parties stance on hs2 & want to change it?
Labour remain staunchly behind hs2 & will continue that way as it brings undeniable benefits to their remaining heartlands – the major cities & the old industrial areas of the Midlands, NW & NE.
So, who will stop hs2? There’s no-one. The argument is over. Now it’s time to get on with the job of building it – just as McLoughlin has said…