I was driving home from a friend’s house on Monday evening and listening to a BBC “local” radio show being broadcast on BBC Radio Shropshire discussing, amongst other things, HS2. The presenter was clearly quite taken with the idea of high speed rail and even suggested to one listener that the jobs that will be created building HS2 must be a good thing because those people will be paying taxes.
I felt compelled at this point to call in to the show and give my thoughts on HS2 and the suggestion that the taxpayer paying 100% of someone’s wages is a good thing because you can take back 20% of it in taxes. To my surprise they called me back an hour later to get me on the show.
Here is Telford and indeed the rest of Shropshire we’ll get bugger all benefit from HS2. Getting from Birmingham to London or to one of the major northern cities isn’t too bad – it’s the journey from Telford to Birmingham that’s the problem with overcrowded, slow trains and the later legs of train journeys if you’re not actually stopping at one of the major locations. I had to go from Telford to Southend once on the train. I left early in the morning and it was dark when I arrived. Including the London Underground, it took five trains to get there. HS2 would shorten the tolerable section of the journey but do nothing to improve the rest of it.
Having said that, I did go to Leeds on the train last year and the journey back was awful – the train was late and overcrowded all the way to Birmingham for the return leg of the journey. So on the basis of that one train journey there’s scope for HS2 to improve a trip to Leeds but I’m pretty sure the train we took ended up with two lots of passengers because of a cancelled service.
The problem is, though, that no matter what benefits HS2 might deliver (either real or imagined) will be dwarfed by the £33bn cost and made largely irrelevant by the 20 year build time. The service will be run by a private company, it’ll probably be financed with a PFI scheme and it’ll almost certainly go over budget. The £33bn cost will need to recovered by subsidies and ticket sales so it’s not going to be cheap to use and even if you don’t use it, your taxes are going to be used to subsidise it anyway.
HS2 is going to be a hugely expensive white elephant.
The SNP have asked the British government for the minutes of the 1997 cabinet meeting on devolution in which it was decided that the Scots and Welsh would be allowed self government whilst England would not.
This important document has been requested a number of times under the Freedom of Information Act and blocked every time. The Information Commissioner has ruled that release of the minutes is in the public interest and ordered their release but they were blocked by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.
What are these traitors so desperate to hide?
Vetoing FOI requests requires the unanimous agreement of the cabinet. When Jack Straw and Dominic Grieve vetoed their release in 2009 and 2012, these people conspired to keep the minutes secret:
|The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
||The Rt Hon. David Cameron MP
|The Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP
||The Rt Hon. Nick Clegg MP
|The Rt Hon The Lord Mandelson PC
||The Rt Hon. William Hague MP
|The Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP
||The Rt Hon. George Osborne MP
|The Rt Hon David Miliband MP
||The Rt Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC MP
|The Rt Hon Jack Straw MP
||The Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
|The Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
||The Rt Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP
|The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
||The Rt Hon. Philip Hammond MP
|The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP
||The Rt Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP
|The Rt Hon John Denham MP
||The Rt Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP
|The Rt Hon Ed Balls MP
||The Rt Hon. Chris Huhne MP
|The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP
||The Rt Hon. Edward Davey MP
|The Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
||The Rt Hon. Andrew Lansley CBE MP
|The Rt Hon Shaun Woodward MP
||The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP
|The Rt Hon The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon PC
||The Rt Hon. Eric Pickles MP
|The Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP
||The Rt Hon. Philip Hammond MP
|The Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP
||The Rt Hon. Justine Greening MP
|The Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP
||The Rt Hon. Caroline Spelman MP
|The Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
||The Rt Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP
|The Rt Hon Peter Hain MP
||The Rt Hon. Owen Paterson MP
|The Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP
||The Rt Hon. Danny Alexander MP
|The Rt Hon The Lord Adonis MP
||The Rt Hon. Michael Moore MP
|The Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP
||The Rt Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP
|The Rt Hon Nick Brown MP
||The Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP
|The Rt Hon The Lord Malloch-Brown KCMG PC
||The Rt Hon. David Laws MP
|The Rt Hon John Healey MP
||The Rt Hon. Danny Alexander MP
|The Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP
||The Rt Hon. The Lord Strathclyde PC
|The Rt Hon The Lord Drayson PC
||The Rt Hon. The Baroness Warsi PC
|The Rt Hon Jim Knight MP
||The Rt Hon. Francis Maude MP
|The Rt Hon The Baroness Scotland of Asthal PC QC
||The Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin MP
|The Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo MP
||The Rt Hon. David Willetts MP
|The Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP
||The Rt Hon. Sir George Young Bt MP
|The Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP
||The Rt Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP
||The Rt Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP
The minutes are really of more interest to the English than the Scots as they got what they wanted and we got shafted so we shouldn’t be leaving it to the Scots to get these minutes into the public domain. If every English person interested in seeing what decisions were made at the cabinet meeting that have resulted in over 15 years of institutional discrimination against the English made a Freedom of Information request for the minute, it would be extremely damaging to the British government if they tried to block their release to hundreds or thousands of people.
If you want to help force the release of these minutes, you need to send an FOI request for them to email@example.com. My request is as follows:
Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting a copy of the minutes of the 1997 Cabinet meetings on devolution. I am also requesting a copy of the Terms of Reference for the cabinet committee headed by Lord Irvine that the minutes relate to and any legal or departmental advice provided to the cabinet in relation to these meetings.
Kev has started an e-Petition on the British government’s website.
A 27 year old Englishman has been beaten to a pulp and left for dead in Wales for being English.
Paul Meehan was born in London, grew up in Cardiff but now lives in Birmingham. He was waiting at a taxi rank when he was attacked after the group heard the brummie twang in his accent. Doctors had to remove a 5″ section of his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.
Increasing anglophobia over the last decade or so has been recognised but the bulk of the increase in racially motivated attacks against English people has been in Scotland where a 2003 survey found that a quarter of English people living in Scotland had experienced racially motivated harassment or discrimination. There are a number of prominent examples of that latent anglophobia translating into physical violence in the disabled Englishman who was dragged out of his car and beaten up in Scotland, the half English/half Scottish boy punched in the face in a park in Scotland for wearing an England football shirt, the English carer for a Scottish friend who had his windows smashed and was assaulted for being English. But the most damning indictment was probably when the head of once of the Scottish police forces said that anti-English attacks had reached epidemic proportions in his force’s area.
However, that violent anglophobia has tended not to manifest itself so much in Wales. In fact, the worst thing that I recall happening in Wales wasn’t even an assault on a person, it was a horse being slashed a few years ago. Hopefully this racist attack isn’t the start of a souring of Anglo-Welsh relations.
Last month the SNP reported that university admissions in 2012 were up in Scotland and down in England.
The reason is obvious: the decline in admissions in England started when the British government’s racist tuition fees were tripled.
I don’t have a problem with less people going to university – in fact, I positively welcome it. The policy of the last Labour government to have 50% of school leavers in England going to university was absolutely mental and if it was ever achieved, would have made degrees utterly worthless. Only the academically gifted should go to university. A degree is a sign of superior academic prowess, it shouldn’t be as commonplace as a NVQ or an A-Level. If 50% of people had a degree what would you have to do to set yourself apart from the other half of the job seeking population that had the same level of qualification as you? The A-Level would be the new GCSE, the bachelors degree the new A-Level and the masters degree would be the new bachelors. School leavers wouldn’t be leaving education and becoming productive members of society until they were at least 26 or 26 and £60k in debt.
That said, the tuition fees system is clearly damaging higher education in England and forcing gifted and talented youngsters to abandon their studies prematurely. A return not just to nationwide academic selection but proper implementation of the abortive tripartite system started in the 1940’s and a return of free university tuition is the best possible education system we can give English youngsters. We can pay for this by not subsidising free university education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for them and anyone else from the EU who decides to study there.