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HS2 might be hated by Tory activists but scrapping it could lead the party to being portrayed as being anti-north

August 22nd, 2019


Wikipedia

The biggest mistake that was made over HS2 was to call it just that. This is why it polls so poorly. It sounds like a vanity project which is exactly what it isn’t. The new line would free up chronic under-capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line including for all the local and commuter services. If this had been billed as “West Coast Mainline upgrade” it wouldn’t have attracted anything like the opposition.

So the decision to review it even though £7bn has already been spent has much wider implications than just being able to travel between London and Birmingham a few minutes  faster.

A worry that the Tories should have over this is the potential for it to become an issue in a general election where the party which is mostly southern based will need to pick up existing LAB seats in the midlands and the North.

For the Tories look set to lose most of the 12 Scottish gains that rescued TMay at GE2017 and are also highly vulnerable to the anti-Brexit LDs particularly in Remain areas.

This has been said many time but Scotland and the LD revival could cost the blue team dozens of seats that will have to be offset by gains from Labour if Johnson is to secure a majority. The big question is whether they are able to do that. This was supposed to have happened at GE2017 but what we saw was Labour make gains the Tory’s expense.

The challenge here is that many of the potential targets are in the Midlands and the North of England and anything that could portray the party as being, say, anti-North, might not be very smart.

BJohnson might try to make the election all about implementing the referendum result but that could be hard to sustain over five weeks of a campaign when the broadcasters are legally required to give more equal airtime to opposition parties. A narrative about the party being anti-north could easily gather momentum and decisions over where huge infrastructure spending goes could be made into a powerful campaign issue.

Yesterday’s announcement, with the benefit of hindsight, might not in a few months time look smart.

Mike Smithson