After months of not so much “will they/won’t they”, but more like “just bloody get on with it”, we now finally have a December date for the General Election, which will be the fourth one since the unelected Labour peer Andrew Adonis launched HS2 in March 2010.
The agreement by politicians on the December 12th election date finally gives us a timescale for the publication of the Oakervee report on HS2 too: this will now happen at some point after December 12th! Well that’s if it ever gets published, but that’s another story.
The Oakervee review into HS2 was of course a standard tried and tested electoral tactic: If you have a controversial subject which you don’t want to have to talk about during an election because you think taking either stance on it could be a vote loser, you simply set up a review which is meant to report after the election, then you don’t have to talk about it and when asked you can say “We will implement the recommendations of the Oakervee Review” or “We’ll wait to see what Doug Oakervee says.” The problem with that of course is of course that when Boris Johnson called what he said was going to be a ‘short review’ of about six weeks, he expected the election to have happened by now, which is of course one of the reasons why the review now needs ‘more time’.
We would say we will be monitoring what the different parties’ view of HS2 will be, but besides the Green and Brexit parties being against HS2 and the Tories very clearly going with the ‘wait for the review’ line, we expect Labour and Liberal Democrats will say they think HS2 is a good thing, but are concerned about the costs, which they will attempt to frame as Conservative mismanagement of the project. Of course if you live in a constituency directly impacted by HS2 you will miraculously see that all candidates will most likely be willing to say it’s a bad thing and that your sitting MP hasn’t done enough, no matter what the official party stance for each candidate.
What is very true however is that trying to tell people in constituencies directly impacted by preparation works that are going on right now, that they don’t have to worry because there is a review ongoing, ain’t going to wash.
What is also certain is that with direct action currently taking place at five sites in four constituencies that would normally be considered to be safe Tory seats, HS2 is going to be more of an issue at this election than many will be comfortable with.