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?

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BBC Blasted for “Fairytale” Remain Spin in ‘State of Chaos’

Last night the BBC aired the final part of its “State of Chaos” series on the government collapse last year, with a focus on the infamous Truss-Kwarteng mini-Budget. It was a mostly routine BBC affair: conventional production values, a few decent soundbites from former advisers… and a sense viewers were being instructed to shake their heads solemnly at the Tories.  This morning, however, Trussites across the Commons and Lords are on the offensive…

Multiple MPs have blasted the BBC for ” regurgitating the Labour Party lines” and “ignoring” the role of the Bank of England in the last ten years. Craig Mackinlay told Guido this morning:

“When is anyone going to ask the Bank of England about their decision to fix interest rates at artificially low levels and the effective printing of £900bn of new money over the last ten years?  […] We have structural weaknesses within increasingly powerful and untouchable economic bodies yet in the simplistic BBC world all look to a political fall guy (or girl) to blame.”

Greg Smith added:

“I know it’s compelling viewing to tell these sorts of stories, but BBC viewers and license fee payers deserve something a little more in depth. The Bank of England chose to become the world’s first central bank to engage in quantitative tightening – selling government debt back into the market – just days before the mini budget, and it decided not to raise interest rates as decisively as the US Federal Reserve […] It’s a shame this isn’t being looked at by the BBC.”

Pauline Latham, meanwhile, fumed that there was “very little mention of the Bank of England’s record in failing to raise interest rates as decisively as in the US“, while a Tory peer tells Guido this morning “I hope the BBC can apply just as much rigour and enthusiasm to telling the story about the Bank of England’s record, as Laura does about the role of politicians.” One particular moment that’s agitated the Tory benches is this absolute howler from ex-Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Simon McDonald… 

The “British system” was able to “deal with” Prime Ministers who were “out of sympathy” with the public. According to whom? Simon McDonald? The same Simon McDonald who told his own Civil Servants he’d voted remain…

mdi-timer 26 September 2023 @ 10:31 26 Sep 2023 @ 10:31 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Live with Littlewood Spring Statement Special

On tonight’s Live with Littlewood, we’ll be asking whether the Chancellor’s Spring Statement will provide the security he promises. Will the Tories ever slash taxes? Is state largesse here to stay? And how can the government go for growth?

IEA Director General Mark Littlewood will be joined by MP Greg Smith, Economist Vicky Pryce, Duncan Simpson of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the IEA’s own Christopher Snowdon.

Tune in from 6pm here.

mdi-timer 23 March 2022 @ 17:40 23 Mar 2022 @ 17:40 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Live with Littlewood! @ 6pm
On tonight’s Live with Littlewood, we’ll be asking…
  • Nightmare before Christmas: Are further Covid restrictions “proportionate and responsible”?
  • Doctors’ anger: How should we treat the unvaccinated?
  • 10-year plan: Will the government’s Drug Strategy work?
Host and IEA Director General Mark Littlewood will be joined by Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo, City AM Comment Editor Sascha O’Sullivan, the IEA’s own Victoria Hewson and Conservative MP Greg Smith.
Join the debate from 6pm here or on YouTube!
mdi-timer 8 December 2021 @ 17:30 8 Dec 2021 @ 17:30 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
40 Tory MPs Join IEA Free Market Forum

40 Conservative MPs have joined forces with the IEA to form a new Parliamentary branch of their Free Market Forum (FMF). The group, co-chaired by Dehenna Davison and Greg Smith, plan on using research, events and campaigns to “encourage free market thinking, winning over the unpersuaded and providing intellectual firepower and a public platform to proponents of classical liberalism.” It says something that this cabal is needed in the modern-day Tory party…

“The Free Market Forum (FMF) aims to refocus the political debate, shifting attention towards free enterprise and social freedom after a year of unavoidable yet time-limited state intervention in the economy and our everyday lives.”

Of the 40 parliamentary supporters, 19 are from the 2019 intake and five are cabinet ministers. Guido thought the group’s views on the ongoing European Superleague Debate could be a good barometer of how truly free market the group are, or whether they’re just virtue signalling. 12 out of the 40 have condemned the plans, with all 5 of the Cabinet Members keeping schtum…

Other well-known figures from the wonk world are also involved in the group’s new advisory board, including Matthew Elliot, Jon Moynihan and Lord Kamall. FMF follows in the wake of the Free Enterprise Group and FREER, taking on Ruth Porter, Lee Rowley and former Downing Street union SpAd Luke Graham as advisors. Guido wonders how many of these MPs will fight for free markets in a basically social democratic government…

Read the list of free market-loving MPs in full.

Read More

mdi-timer 21 April 2021 @ 10:43 21 Apr 2021 @ 10:43 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments