Grant Shapps was asked why he had changed his mind on transport investment on GMB this morning and said: “One word – Coronavirus”. He claimed that the number of passengers “hasn’t come back again” since the pandemic, despite the fact that passenger numbers reached 103% of pre-covid levels in February. Is the government blaming HS2’s cancellation on Covid?
The Westminster press pack might be swanning about the G20, but they’re missing the most important story going: the race for the Transport committee chair. By Guido’s count there are six candidates, more than for any of the other four select committee races caused by the Ri-shuffle:
One in particular has grabbed Guido’s attention. Karl McCartney has been sending some novel campaign materials to colleagues, including an Ivor the Engine and a Thomas The Tank Engine-themed campaign video. He has also photoshopped all his backers into an open wagon as part of his e-leaflet.
Thinking back to Karl’s recent bust-up with Mick Lynch, Guido’s not sure the train metaphor can be relied upon to deliver the goods…
Attendees at Transport for the North’s annual conference were blessed with a real treat today. Following Chris Heaton-Harris’s address (prerecorded, presumably because the trains ran too slowly), the hall’s sound system blared out house music at full volume as the audience eagerly awaited the next guest speaker. Here are the lyrics to “WATEVA & Fiveight’s – Get $”, as heard this morning:
They took my f*@king moneyLet’s get money, motherf*@ker, get money
Get money, motherf*@ker, get money
Let’s get money, motherf*@ker, get money
Get money, motherf*@ker, get money”
Former Corbyn and McDonnell spinner James Mills now runs TfN’s communications and engagement. Probably just a coincidence…
A bizarre protest is underway outside the Department for Transport tonight. Around 40 noisy supporters of the hitherto unknown Association of British Commuters are chanting “Grayling out” and demanding the government intervene in the Southern Rail dispute. Shouldn’t this protest be taking place outside the headquarters of ASLEF and the RMT?
Labour voters showed their trust in Corbyn in a recent YouGov poll on TrainGate. 39% of current Labour voters believe Corbyn’s version of events – that there were no unreserved seats available – compared to 34% believing Virgin’s story. 44% think Corbyn was being dishonest but only 36% of Labour voters think that his dishonesty matters. On the stump supporters argue the attack by offshore privateer Branson helps Corbyn with activists…
Virgin’s corporate partnership with Labour must be feeling the strain after Branson’s anti-Corbyn intervention this afternoon. Ironically Virgin Trains are offering members a 20% discount off ticket prices for delegates attending Labour’s autumn conference:
“With regular trains from London Euston, we can get you straight to Liverpool in just 2 hours 14 minutes, giving you the time to put your feet up or make those last minute preparations . Our trains will deliver you to the heart of Liverpool arriving fresh and prepared.”
The conference is already under pressure after Guido revealed the party had failed to line up a security company to protect the venue. So far it’s shaping up to be a dangerous, poorly attended event thronging only with Corbyn cultists with no seats – until the deselections!
UPDATE: Tories get better value for money, obviously:
— Simon Harley (@simonharley) August 23, 2016
UPDATE II: Corbyn confirms he did get a seat:
So Corbyn finally admit story that he sat on the floor of a train for three hours on way to hustings was not true: pic.twitter.com/4si3qJ91FI
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) August 23, 2016
Meanwhile, a Virgin spokeswoman confirms to Guido that the deal is still on…