Saturday 27 June 2015

Network Rail and the big Tory lie

As we approached the last election, like many people, I found myself struggling with a deep dilemma. As I assessed the options I was faced with, it was clear to me (and so it seems to everyone else on the planet if you believe what they say) that I felt that Ed Miliband was not up to being Prime Minister. Back in 2011 I met Ed Miliband at the House of Commons as part of a delegation from the Federation of Small Business, to discuss Labour policy towards small business. It was clear to me within 2 minutes of meeting him that he wasn't up to the job. From that moment I always felt the Labour party were on course for a sound spanking at the polls, unless they faced up to the fact that they'd chosen the wrong man.

Having accepted this fact, I started to take a bit more interest in the likely shape of the new Parliament. Like most commentators, I thought the likely outcome of the 2015 general election would be a new coalition. Whilst I thought the Lib Dems would lose a few seats, I took the view that in the areas where they had MP's they would generally hang on, as I thought they had an effective party machine.

What I didn't consider (and I think most Lib Dems failed to consider either), is just how brutal and ruthless the Tory party machine is. Lynton Crosby clearly took the view that to win a majority, it was the Lib Dems rather than Labour who needed to be targetted. He rightly took the view that this vote was "soft". I have formed the view over the last five years that Lib Dem voters fall into two camps. There are voters who veer towards Labour and hate Tories, who vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out. Lynton Crosby took the view that these would by and large desert the Lib Dems and make the seats winnable. The other group, I believe the larger group, are the Tory leaning Lib Dems. This group distrust Labour and see it largely as a tool of the trades unions. They are too nice to be Tories, not buying into Europhobia, not supporting deep social welfare cuts and being largely supportive of green policies.

As the Lib Dems had been in coalition with the Tories, this group had been "softened up" to the concept of voting Tory. For Lynton Crosby, the secret of winning the Tories a majority was to convince this group that a Tory vote was not going to destroy the hard work that the coalition had done. A whole raft of policies had been developed that specifically target such voters. Pretty near the top of this list was the program of railway modernisation. This included electrification of the Midland Mainline and the Trans Penine route.

It is quite ridiculous that the countries main rail links are not electrified. The mainstay of the Midland mainline train fleet are the HST fleet. These were built in the early 1970's and are nearly 40 years old. How many cars of that vintage are still on the road? The fleet was originally developed for the East Coast mainline as a stop gap until the route was electrified. They were then cascaded to the Great Western route and the Midland line. Whilst the trains have a theoretical top speed of 125 mph, for much of the Midland line, this speed is unachievable. The Midland route is the cinderalla route of the British railways network. It has been the victim of chronic underinvestment ever since the creation of British Rail. As a result, important cities such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester have a second rate service. The southern part of the route, as far as Bedford, has been given a significant investment as part of the Thameslink programme, but this has delivered nothing for the people of the major Midlands.

Perhaps even more important for many people in the North was the Trans Penine electrification, linking Leeds and Manchester and creating a Northern super hub. This would provide a massive boost for the North and help rebalance the economy, where the South East is overheating, whilst the North is in semi recession. George Osborne had even received tacit support of many Labour metropolitan councils with his plans.

The promise to rectify this scandalous waste of resources was for many people a deal clincher. I have many friends and business contacts in the North and Midlands and many were terrified that Miliband would get in, screw the economy and cause the cancellation of Osbornes ambitious infrastructure plans. As such many who'd never voted Tory jumped on board, and many marginals in the Midlands that people expected to see fall to Labour, stayed Blue.

But as ever, once the election is out of the way, we find out what a bunch of lying shisters we hav running the country. The plans, so vital for our economy, have been "suspended". It is clear that Osborne new this would happen months ago. In short, the Tories won on a big lie. Sadly, this is a big lie that will eventually cost our economy tens of billions of pounds. These projects would have sparked a mini boom in many depressed areas and helped join the country up. Sadly, the people of the Midlands and the North are being sacrificed, so that George Osborne can give his rich city friends a tax cut.

And to me, that just shows how completely unfit he is to run the country.

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