As an inhabitant of ‘leafy’ Warwickshire it will probably be no surprise that I have grave concerns about the upcoming HS2 which will bisect the county. I have read all the mountains of documents associated with the project and still remain skeptical. I have tried to be open minded and actually think some of their assessments make sense but on the whole the project doesn’t stack up.
I could go on for hours about how the economic case is flimsy at best, I could wax lyrical over the destruction of the countryside, I could explain how it makes more sense to upgrade existing lines and I could regale facts regarding population size and land area to explain why a small overpopulated nation needs a high speed rail link less than a huge sparsely populated one but I won’t... well not now anyway, I’m sure I’ll get to it in later blogs. Instead this blog serves to highlight my growing despair of the current political class.
What has tipped me over the edge is the denial by the Transport Secretary to release the 2011 Review by the Major Projects Authority. The document that assesses the viability of any major project was requested to be released under the freedom of information act but yesterday was vetoed by the Government. Patrick McLoughlin stated it wasn’t in the public interest and that its release was likely to make future documents less effective. The last time this veto was used was regarding documents relating to the war in Iraq, so important this issue is believed to be.
Obviously I disagree with this move especially as the current government has extolled the need to be more transparent:
"[to make the UK] the most open and transparent government in the world" David Cameron Open Government Partnership Summit 2013.
And dare I quote:
“I want the coalition to be the ‘greenest’ government ever” David Cameron 2010
But I am further disheartened by the fact that currently there is no choice on this matter. The Liberals as part of the coalition are on board and whilst Labour seem to be wavering they were the party to first introduce the HS2.
I have already pledged to myself not to vote for any party that continues to support HS2, the Badger Cull or seeks to continue the current planning and housing policy. So far that leaves me with a limited pool to work with. It’s a shame because my local MP, currently a Conservative does a good job locally.
Where then lies the problem? I understand that ministers are supposed to be rely on their civil servants for advice but am I alone in wanting a meritocracy where Ministers actually had some experience of the portfolio they cover. Patrick McLoughlin was a farm worker and coal miner before becoming a career politician in the early 1980’s. What specialism in transport does he hold on which to rationalise the advice he is given. Owen Paterson our current Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs has a degree in History and worked as a Sales Director for the British Leather Company before entering politics. What does he know of the countryside?
In fact what scientific training do either of them have to be able to assess the scientific advice they are given? Is it too much to ask for decisions to be made on the balance of evidence and not for short term political goals or for the ‘public good’.