Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


1 Comment

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Chancellor George Osborne announced £0.5bn improvement to Great Eastern Mainline today (Picture credit: Ipswich Spy)

Chancellor George Osborne announced £0.5bn improvements to the Great Eastern Mainline today

Conservative Chancellor George Osborne was in Norwich today to announce a £550 million package to improve the Great Eastern Mainline shortening journey times between Norwich and London with a promise for services to and from Ipswich taking just 60 minutes.

Mr Osborne praised Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and fellow Tories in the region, Chloe Smith (Norwich North) and Priti Patel (Witham) for the work they have done to date lobbying transport ministers and their Railway Manifesto published in conjunction with local councils. In keeping with Coalition protocol, the Chancellor also gave a nod to Liberal Democrat Simon Wright (Norwich South). Today’s announcement looks like it is putting the flesh on the bones of the announcement made by the Government in January, which stated Network Rail (owned by the taxpayer) would be spending £1.4bn on the Great Eastern mainline infrastructure improvements between 2014 – 2019. Back in January, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was yet to green-light the scheme. It would seem today’s announcement in Norwich tells us half the budget has been approved.

The Chancellor, speaking today at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “East Anglia is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and is establishing itself as a world leader in science, technology and manufacturing. To support this growth we need to have modern, efficient rail services and improved connections.

I am absolutely behind the region and that’s why I’ve set up a taskforce to see how we can build on the excellent work by Chloe Smith, Ben Gummer, Priti Patel and Simon Wright.”

Ben Gummer along with his regional parliamentary colleagues mentioned by Mr Osborne will sit on the taskforce. I am sure Mr Gummer’s focus will be on introducing “Ipswich in Sixty” (hat-tip on the phrase: Ipswich Spy), ensuring Ipswich commuters’ journey times into and out of London are reduced to 60 minutes, which will make a big difference. It is not clear from today’s announcement by Mr Osborne how that will be achieved.

The Department for Transport has also asked Abellio, parent company of the Greater Anglia franchise, to start refurbishing their rolling stock, including making them more business-friendly by introducing power sockets into carriages to charge laptops and mobile phones.

£550 million is a lot of money so some improvements are going to happen – the key is for local MPs to explain how those changes will reduce journey times.


2 Comments

What is Dave going to do about the cost of living crisis?

electricity

And in other news, voters have dumped a strong incumbent party politician in a provincial poll in Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, and replaced him with a Liberal party candidate who, lo and behold, promised to bring under control soaring electricity prices.

David Cameron should take note, especially as he doesn’t even have a strong incumbency. The Nova Scotia result is what will happen to the Tories on a massive national scale unless they get their act together and come out soon with a clear, concise cost of living policy.

Conservative backbenchers are imploring him to counter the Labour leader’s announcement to freeze energy bills by ditching the green levies Ed Miliband forced on energy firms with his Climate Change Act 2008, and paid for through your increased electricity and gas prices. Only last Friday, darling of the Tory Right, Priti Patel, MP for Witham, speaking at an Ipswich Conservatives’ fundraising dinner, said the leadership needed to start talking about Conservative values and in a language the electorate will understand about the economy and the cost of living. Ms Patel rightly said “deficit reduction” didn’t mean anything to the ordinary voter in marginal seats like Ipswich.

Without mentioning him by name, she made it clear Ed Miliband’s rhetoric on energy prices – albeit hypocritical considering his actions when he was Energy Secretary in the last Labour government – was hitting home amongst the British people and the Conservative Party needed to counter with a distinct message of their own on how the Tories will tackle the cost of living.

Priti Patel signalled her party was constrained by being in Coalition but did not believe the Coalition would fall apart before the 2015 election, not least because the 2010 Coalition Agreement forms the statement of work for the Civil Service. Whitehall mandarins move slow at the best of times so there is no chance of a formal break-up of the Coalition government before the next general election.

But this should not stop David Cameron doing what the Liberal Democrats do already from their standpoint. The PM should set out a coherent Tory offering to the British people now and not be afraid to criticise the Yellow Peril when necessary. The Prime Minister could start by announcing his government is going to help with rising energy bills in a way government actually can: by scrapping the green taxes on our bills within weeks.

Lib Dem Ed Davey (what is it with these Eds!?), the current Energy Secretary, may have come out publicly to defend the plethora of green levies his department imposes on everyone’s gas and electricity bills but unless David Cameron wants to take his party down to the abyss of electoral defeat he needs to unleash his inner Tory. If he waits too long, the voters may have already decided to follow the Nova Scotian lead.