Since the election result last week, there has been a lot of speculation about what will now be the programme for Government. With the Conservatives forming a minority Government, it is clear that some of their more contentious manifesto promises are now dead in the water as, no matter how the DUP feel about things, there are more than enough Tory backbenchers who aren’t too fond of the idea of cutting free school meals and don’t really see the point of having a debate about fox hunting.
So the question is, where does that leave the proposed £55.7bn spend on HS2? There is no vote upcoming on Phase 1 as it has already passed, though HS2 Ltd do want to get the Phase 2a Bill submitted, meaning it may be meant to be going into the Queens Speech.
A Hung Parliament and a minority Government puts a lot of power in the hands of backbenchers and it is far from unheard of for a number to come together to make demands, with the promise of selling their souls to support everything else that the PM needs supporting on.
With the political mood as it is, it is clear there is no appetite for extravagances, which all but the most vocal supporters of HS2 see it as, with one MP saying that HS2 Ltd themselves reckon the bill would end up at £200bn.
The other thing of course, is that all the speculation is that the DUP is going to insist of some pretty serious infrastructure investment in Northern Ireland to support Mrs May, and that money has to come from somewhere. You also have to remember that the projected economic downturn that HS2 might cause to Northern Ireland is that bad that when KPMG produced their infamous report into the supposed benefits of HS2, the conveniently forgot that Northern Ireland exists.
One thing is certain, with Phase 1 construction contracts due to be signed in July, any change of heart would have to happen pretty sharpish…….