With the last result declared, Johnson’s Government now has a clear majority of 80. He no longer needs the backing of parties like the DUP and it waters down the influence of special interest groups or rebels.
As I predicted, the StopHs2 campaign had a lousy election. Long on bluster, they’ve always been short of any serious political influence and this is obvious in the results. They were never a genuine threat to any MPs on the route. A good example is on the phase 2b route at Erewash where Maggie Throup, the local Tory MP has always made her support for HS2 plain. Despite the fact their was a vociferous anti Hs2 candidate standing against her for the Green Party (Brent Poland) and there’s a local Stophs2 ‘action’ group she increased her majority by 4.4%!
Meanwhile, over in Bolsover, the prominent anti-HS2 MP and Labour veteran, Dennis Skinner lost his seat! What’s been crystal clear is that the big issue has been Brexit, not Hs2.
Here’s a bit of number crunching. Of the 41 MPs who voted against Hs2 Phase 1 back In 2014, just 20 of them are still MPs. Plus, 7 of those 20 actually voted FOR Hs2 phase 2a! Whilst a few new MPs have stated their opposition it doesn’t affect the numbers. For example. Labour’s John Barron in Rother Valley who was opposed to HS2 has been replaced by a Tory MP with the same stance. Some of the new Tory MPs in the Chilterns are making noises about HS2, but it’s nothing more than posturing to keep some of the locals happy. Phase 1 is a done deal, there are no more votes in Parliament to be had.
Where does this leave HS2? Johnson’s Conservatives made big inroads into the Labour heartland of the North and Midlands. He now has to deliver on his promises to the people who’ve lent him their votes. He’s promised to ‘level the field’ between North and South and invest in infrastructure. Cancelling HS2 would send entirely the wrong message to people who have bought into his promises. He can’t ‘get Brexit done’ and he needs their votes again in five years time. With Hs2 (and NPR) he can at least offer them something tangible.
During the election campaign Johnson made it clear that he’d go along with the recommendations of the Oakervee review of HS2. As the leaked report shows Oakervee recommends building HS2 in its entirety. Does anyone seriously expect Johnson to cancel it? There might be some tweaks to the Phase 2b route, but it’s worth remembering that another scheme Johnson backs (Northern Powerhouse Rail) will share 50% of Hs2 Phase 2’s tracks. You won’t get one without the other.
Of course, Johnson’s government could cut the cost of HS2 by renegotiating some of the construction contracts which have loaded on costs due to the transfer of risk from Hs2 to the contractors, which would make a lot of sense and save billions, making him popular all round and pull the rug from under the remaining HS2 objectors.
My prediction is that we’ll see Hs2 phase 1 get the go-ahead very quickly to end the uncertainty and Phase 2a resume its course through the Lords. What’s left of the StopHs2 campaign has no serious political influence and Johnson has a lot on his plate. The last thing he needs now is to fight a needless battle with Northern and Midlands leaders by scrapping any of HS2.
Watch this space…