MPs' Nimby-pampy arguments over HS2 head off on the wrong track


Related Topics

It was tempting, listening to the epidemic of localism which raged after Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin's Commons statement today, to fantasise what the House of Commons would be like if there were no constituencies. And if MPs were picked on a purely national list system as in – say – Israel.

Would the debate then have been about the benefits to the whole nation of a mighty infrastructure project worthy of Brunel and designed, as McLoughlin said, in an almost Keynesian flourish, for "giving muscle to the economies of the cities beyond London?"

As it was, MPs had trouble seeing beyond the circulation areas of their local newspapers. The first backbencher to speak was Cheryl Gillan, La Pasionaria of Amersham, who you can imagine standing on the track and shouting the famous Spanish civil war battle cry "they shall not pass" as the gleaming locomotive begins its maiden 200-plus mph climb through the Chilterns. Assuming of course, she is still around in 2026 when the first trains will be running to Birmingham.

She foresaw years of "blight and uncertainty" in Buckinghamshire. If the Train was so great for the North, she argued, let it start in the North, "so the benefits are more immediate and the connectivity to the South East and on to global markets through the – as yet undecided – hub airport can be... better integrated."

Sacked as Welsh secretary – surely a price well worth paying for the release from Cabinet collective responsibility – Ms Gillan thus used in a single sentence three buzz words essential to any intervention on the subject: "hub", "integrate" and above all "connectivity".

Nor was she alone. Labour and Tory backbenchers united in calibrating their reactions according to the local impact of the route. Or lack of it. What would be the effect "not to put too fine a point on it" asked the Conservative David Rutley on services "to and from Macclesfield." The LibDem Sir Bob Russell was equally blunt: "How will it benefit Colchester?" Wanting a tunnel to protect housing on the route serving what McLoughlin promised would be the "major new interchange" at West London's Old Oak Common, Labour's Steven Pound warned that "fear stalks the streets of Greenford."

That said, McLoughlin overall had an easy ride. One voice, sadly, was missing. That of Windsor. Its multimillionaire MP Adam Afriyie, named as the stalking horse canvassed to overthrow David Cameron, had been spotted in the tearoom where at least two Labour MPs breezily promised him their support. But he stayed away for the great announcement: Was he uninterested? Or just biding his time?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own