Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Slow-coach tactics keep HS2 a coming down the track

This could be tricky. Time for a trip to Tallinn, one imagines future Chief Whips saying

It has been a long time since Buckinghamshire was a hotbed of subversion – about five centuries, in fact, when the county’s great civil war hero John Hampden championed Parliament against the King. But yesterday it took up arms once again.

Not only was Cheryl Gillan, La Pasionaria of the Chilterns, Tory MP for Chesham and Amersham, leading the charge against the HS2 Bill, but David Lidington, the equally Tory MP for Aylesbury, had declared he would resign as the minister for Europe without adequate “mitigation and compensation” for the feared damage to the gorgeous rolling hills just beyond Metroland. 

Whether Lidington’s Nimbyish stand quite qualifies him as a latter-day Hampden remains a matter of dispute, however. For one thing he would only be taking this momentous step, if at all, at a “later stage” of the Bill. Indeed he was not actually present for Monday night’s vote – being conveniently absent “giving a lecture in Estonia”.

How he must have smiled as a purring private secretary pointed out his means of escape from the embarrassment of not joining the Prime Minister in the Yes lobby. “Ah minister, it seems that you will be unavoidably detained in Tallinn, speaking on the future of Europe to the Estonian Business School, making a courtesy call on the Foreign Minister, and taking part in a panel discussion about the internet.”

True, the Foreign Office insisted on Monday that the visit had been planned “for months”. And in his earlier statement on Ukraine, William Hague loyally stressed the importance of his deputy’s mission, as if the entire future of East-West relations rested on it. But the alibi could well catch on as a euphemism for a diplomatic absences.

“This could be tricky in your constituency, old boy,” you can imagine future Chief Whips saying, “Time for a lecture in Estonia?”

Meanwhile, had the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s big speech been a train it would have been anything but high speed. He took so many interventions from hostile MPs that you began to wonder if he really wanted to reach his destination. With his McLoughlinesque version of eloquence he insisted that “it is time for better links north to south and east to west, time to connect to world markets to make the most of their skills and talents, time for HS2”.

The rebels were unimpressed. But they have one worry, the prominence in their midst of the flamboyant flaxen-tonsured Tory Michael Fabricant, who declared that under present plans the line “doesn’t even link with the Channel ports … with HS1 and … with whichever airport will be chosen by your own department to have the third runway”. On paper these are persuasive arguments. From Fabricant’s mouth they are somehow hard to take as seriously as they deserve.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home