Backbench Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) has warned Conservatives that pursuing HS2 may lose them the election in 2015.
Whilst Labour officially supports the proposed rail line, the London Evening Standard reports that Ed Balls hinted at the recent Labour Party conference that they might drop the project altogether if elected in 2015.
The paper reports that Bridgen has sent a letter to 130 Conservative MPs in which he
describes the £42.6 billion high-speed rail network as an “expensive white elephant”.
Bridgen also wrote
if Labour pledges to scrap HS2, it will free up billions of pounds, allowing the party to win voters with expensive promises.
He told the Standard:
“It’s better to drop HS2 now rather than see Labour drop it and use the £50 billion to buy votes in marginal seats.
“It would become very difficult for the Tories to argue that money is not available for spending.”
The coverage of the Conservative Party conference on the BBC showed many members firmly in favour of HS2 for reasons of ‘progress’.
Whilst that is true, the project will also run through some of the most beautiful English countryside, threatening the survival and stability of farms, villages and ancient buildings. It’s a vote-earner for Labour if they wish to exploit the historical and environmental angle, particularly as some of the route is in Tory heartlands in the Home Counties. People living in these areas are undecided about the merits of — if not actively opposed to — HS2.
However, Bridgen makes the principal argument, that of money, which Labour would use for ‘the people’. The choice between people and a rail line is obvious.
But what would a Tory backtrack on HS2 look like to voters? Will it matter or will it look as if the party had made a major blunder which they tried to correct in time for 2015?
Do we really need HS2 or is it just a way for the Conservatives to leave a tangible post-Thatcher legacy?