It was inevitable that the sight of three Labour MPs and a Tory peer walking into court would dominate the news agenda yesterday. Of course it was a real story, but of far greater lasting significance to Britain’s future was the announcement of the plans for a high-speed rail network.
Meet virtually anyone in the transport sector, and they will tell you that Andrew Adonis has been a terrific transport secretary, and his enthusiasm for this project for very sound economic and environmental reasons has been one of its principal drivers.
We are way behind the likes of France and Japan with regards to rail, but anyone who ever sits in traffic on the M1, and watches the trains (even at today’s pace) whizzing by, must surely realise rail is the future, rather than building more and more motorway capacity.
Eurostar, for all the difficulties of a few months ago, has been a fantastic example of how a good service can transform people’s perceptions and behaviour. I would no more think of driving or flying to Paris or Brussels now than I would think of voting Tory.
Talking of which, I understand Andrew and Tory transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers recently did a debate together in front of an audience which was asked to give their views on the two parties’ policies before the debate, and after. By the time the arguments had been heard, a Tory lead had changed to a big Labour lead. Andrew may not be the most classically telegenic politician, and alas he is in the Lords not the Commons. But he really knows his stuff whereas it seems Theresa Villiers did not, and resorted to platitudes and attack lines.
Across the policy board, Labour has nothing to fear from such debates and ministers should be challenging their oppos to them left, right and centre, and encouraging the broadcasters to cover as many as they can fit in.