HS2: Downing Street’s Communication Off the Rails
Knowing what’s really happening with HS2 is near impossible with Downing Street’s current comms strategy. Especially when Grant Shapps and Jeremy Hunt were allowed to drop hints in recent days essentially confirming the Northern leg of HS2 is about to be derailed. All before the Tories head off to conference in… Manchester.
Number 10 are spinning the constant umming and ahhing over HS2 as a consequence of Rishi’s “alarm” at the cost surpassing £100 billion. Guido has taken a look back at the confusion in just the last few months:
- March 26th: Michael Gove insisted HS2 would arrive in Manchester. Though perhaps not Euston…
- July 30th: Government ‘committed‘ to HS2 after watchdog rates project as ‘unachievable‘. Strong start…
- September 14th: Downing Street refused to guarantee the HS2 will run to Manchester as planned. Change of tune…
- September 15th: Chris Philp said he didn’t know whether the line would go to Manchester as planned but that trains would go “very fast from London“.
- September 17th: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wouldn’t confirm HS2 link to Manchester despite PM’s ‘absolute‘ levelling up commitment.
- September 18th: Richard Holden refused to confirm HS2 will run to Manchester but added in the Commons “we remain focused on its delivery.” One-way ticket to uncertainty there…
- September 18th: Pensions Minister Laura Trott told Sky News “The government looks at every single penny it is spending to make sure that we’re getting the value for money.” Avoiding the question again…
- September 21st: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the costs of HS2 were “getting totally out of control” as he refused to commit to building the Manchester leg.
- September 24th: Transport Minister Grant Shapps let the cat out the bag, responding to whether HS2 will run to Manchester that, “it’s not my area these days” adding that the PM is “prepared to do long-term difficult things.”
- September 25th: Rishi refused to comment on the speculation of scrapping northern leg of HS2, though claimed he is “still committed to levelling up“.
- September 26th: Policing Minister Chris Philp said he “wants to see tax payers money spent prudently” and that “the chancellor and the PM are trying to control the costs”.
- September 26th: The Times reported Rishi Sunak is to delay or even scrap the leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester, citing runaway costs.
Are we derailing HS2 or not?