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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all