Saturday, 14 January 2012

HS2: the truth about parochial Britain

There are very few "eureka" moments in observing British politics.  Occasionally they emerge when the true idiocy of the Tory Party emerges from underneath the air-brushed cheek-pouches of our self-esteemed Prime Minister, or when Ed Miliband signally fails to register a further easy blow upon the Coalition's latest inanity.  Last week's announcement of cross-party support for High Speed 2, putting us a mere forty years behind the French and German economies, was one of them.

The most telling example of the mire into which political discourse has fallen is "Question Time".  Presided over by the superannuated Tory troll David Dimbleby, whose grasp of pluralism and the nuanced nature of most discussion is approximately as large as Boris Johnson's take on personal morality, it provides an opportunity for demagogues and cretins to put their half-witted views forward.  This applies equally to panellists and the audience, which appears to be trawled from amongst the knuckle-dragging, dribbling Poujadists and semi-evolved proto-fascists with monomania.  This week's example was enlivened by Kelvin MacKenzie, whose Thatcherite throwbacks continue to purvey a selfish, neanderthal view of the world where the only justification for any state activity is to benefit his little world, and a self-parodic Scouser bleating about the lack of journey opportunities between Watford and Liverpool.  The latter is clearly a very good reason for him to oppose HS2, while for the rest of us it is very difficult to compute why anybody would be in either place or want to travel between them (sorry - cheap jibe but the audience has that effect on me).

We were also regaled by the over-promoted Transport Secretary, who is clearly quite adept at reading briefs prepared for her by the much-derided civil service.  However, the real weight behind HS2 came from Labour and the SNP - both of whom tend to see the issues from a much less blinkered view than government or the chorus of Chiltern nay-sayers who are trying to threaten Armageddon, led by the Secretary of State for Wales whose constituency is in that well-known Celtic enclave of Amersham, and who is alleged to have already sold her property before planning blight sets in.

The case for HS2 is proven - there needs to be more capacity to move people between the South-East, the Midlands, the North and Scotland.  A bunch of self-appointed flat-earthers have attempted to demonstrate that, by providing longer and longer trains, and encouraging people to travel at 2.30 a.m. on the 3rd February for a meeting in June, there is sufficient capacity available on the existing rail network (saying nothing about the prices or the delays that this would result in).  If rail is preferred, as it should be, then, broadly-speaking, there is no reason not to go faster than currently.  For those of us who lived through the upgrade of the existing West Coast Main Line, new-build seems so much less risky and disruptive.  Government won't want to spend money unless it is convinced of the need for the railway.

The half-witted opposition appears to major on the alleged lack of economic justification for the route.  No forecast will ever be perfect - "the National Health Service is safe with us" springs to mind - but there's a strong business and economic case even before you hit the strategic justification.  Wasting money on nuclear weapons and an over-sized military to demonstrate pseudo-cojones is never challenged like this - nor would an expansion of the motorway network attract opprobrium from the inexplicably still-employed Jeremy Clarkson. 

There may well be a touch of Tory South-East bias here - when it has been pointed out that construction will only start after Crossrail is complete and will not involve any increased burden on taxpayers this is conveniently forgotten - although Boris is attempting to spend copious amounts on dubious road schemes in London to curry favour with the moronic tendency.  What probably motivates it is the unconscious expression of ongoing Europhobia and the belief that the proles, particularly northerners and Scotsmen, should not have their lives made too easy in case they get a bit uppity.

When I get round to posting again I shall consider the Scottish issue once more, but in the meantime the support for modern transport makes 2012 marginally less grumpy - but there's still wasting money on the Olympics and the Jubilee and associated fol-de-rols ro allow normal service to resume.

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