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Friday, July 23, 2010

Speculation and innuendo

I have no idea whether the proposed electrification of the Swansea to London railway line will go ahead anymore than the next person, least of all the Western Mail's journalists. What I do know is that the Westminster Coalition Government is commited to electrification as a way forward, that public finances are in a bad way, having been trashed by Labour before they left office and that despite that the UK Government have determined to protect capital spending if they can.

In this context although the Transport Secretary appears to be laying out the ground for a disappointing announcement on this issue, we should not assume that the proposed electrification is dead and buried yet. After all Philip Hammond is really just stating the bleeding obvious.

That is the project to electrify the line had been announced in a cavalier way by the previous Labour Government, and that as usual they had floated an expensive and attractive project before an election so as to win votes without having any budget attached to it or any idea how to pay for it.

In the circumstances I think that the uncritical airing for Wayne David's views are regrettable because like other Welsh Nationalist Labour MPs (if they are going to call us Tories because we are in coalition then the same rules apply), he is shooting from the hip without any regard for his own culpability in the problems besetting this project.

The one part of this interview that should be highlighted is that Mr. Hammond has said that he is looking at ways of financing the project. He is also looking at longer franchises, which will enable operating companies to invest in improved services themselves. Given the financial mess bequeathed to us by Labour that must be a good second option to direct public funding.
I know the recent opinion poll figures must be giving you an attack of the vapours but blaming everything on the Labour government is beginning to sound like a broken record. The recent output figures and the reduction in borrowing clearly vindicates the policy being followed by Alexander Darling. What you fail to mention is that Crossrail and HS2 which will cost billions will still go ahead.As far as Network Rail is concerned electrification of the GWR line isn't worth bothering with because your government has decided not to replace electric trains on the Thameslink line and there is now a real question mark over the new trains that have been designed by Mitsubishi to replace the Intercity 125. Without electric trains being available for Oxford and Newbury from Thameslink then as far as Network Rail is concerned the economies of scale in developing a line to Swansea are lost. The decision not to proceed is a politcal one and has nothing to do with economics or finance.Much of the real work would not have started until probably 2014. It is short sighted and based on ideology and nothing else. The losers will not just be rail passengers.It will also mean thousands of workers who should be employed in the construction of the line and the trains will instead be drawing unemployment benefits instead. I admire your loyalty to your party but I just don't believe that you really believe any of the stuff you have written on this post. Instead of a knee jerk reaction of defending the indefensible you should be attacking a decision which is not in the best interest of the people you were elected to represent.
Jeff, what is really sounding like a broken record is Labour politicians blaming us for the mess they created and attacking us for trying to sort it out along the lines they had already envisaged. The country's finances are broken and it was you who broke it.

Secondly you ignored ny two central points which were that (1) this was an unfunded election bribe from Labour and that needs to be squared before it goes ahead and (2) no decision has actually been taken.

Do you really believe what you are writing?
"Do you really believe what you are writing?"

Do You?
If I didnt then I would not have written it. I am very comfortable with everything I have written in this post.
Peter. All the evidence so far suggests that the electrification of the GWR has been shelved. Read the speech by Earl Attlee who is the Coalition transport minister in the Lords. The decision not to got ahead with the new trains has also been taken as a signal by Network Rail that the line should not be electrified. I wonder what that great Liberal Keynes would think of this short sighted approach to economic policy. Cutting capital programmes which will contribute to future economic prosperity is not a policy that he would have supported in a recession. David Davis's comments in today's papers also show that you are being used and you will be tossed aside when they are confident that you are no longer required as a fig leave for their assault on everything that Liberal Democrats used to support.
Jeff, I am disappointed that you have suddenly started to believe everything that you read in newspapers.

I am not saying that the electrification will go ahead but there is no clear evidence as you suggest that it will be shelved either, only speculation by interested parties, most of who are hostile to the government. Clearly, no decision has yet been taken.

As for Keynes, he was an important and influential economist but he was writing and theorising about a different economic age and system. The same goes for Friedman by the way. There are some basic lessons but the international nature of the economy is distinctly different to that when he was writing.

Oh, and now you are quoting David Davis. Talk about scraping the barrel.
Peter If I had waited until today I could have quoted from quite a few Liberal Democrats and a number of articles pointing out the real unhappiness by many in your party at the direction being taken by the Coalition. I liked the quote from a Liberal Democrat that you can't trust the Tories. I know you like to put posts on your blog after reading the Observer. Perhaps you could give your opinion on today's Andrew rawnsley article. Only history will tell but in the long run what your party gets out of being in government is difficult to fathom. If voters by 2015 believe that the Coalition has been successful then they will vote for the real thing and that's the Tory party. 2015 or whenever the election is held will be a straight forward fight between a reinvigorated Labour Party with a Leader tested by years in opposition and the Tories. If Nick Clegg is still the Leader of the Liberal Democrats it will be interesting to see what tactic he adopts in the televised debates with his partner David Cameron. No one is going to believe any attempt to try to create an artificial divide between the Clegg wing of the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. Your big test is next year not just in Wales and Scotland but perhaps more importantly in the English Council elections. It will be interesting to see how Liberal Democrats in local government try to defend the cuts they have to impose because of the ideological decisions of the Coalition government in London.
So now you are arguing that we should not have gone into coalition in the first place and allowed an unmoderated Tory party to do their worse before winning an overall majority at a second General Election later this year?

We really had no choice. The country needed stable government, it needed the liberal policies that we brought to the table and which are being enacted and there was a need to keep a check on the Tory right wing. That was especially so when a progressive coalition was not possible and Labour were not interested anyway.

If we had walked away and allowed the Tories to rule unchecked we would have been devastated at the next poll. People would quite rightly have asked what we are for. As it is we now have a raft of liberal policies being put into effect that we can put to the voters, and we have additional credibility of being in government.

Yes, being in power is difficult and we are going to have to make unpopular decisions because of the mess that Labour left us but so far people understand that. Yes, there are members on both sides who are unhappy but that should not shake our resolve. Labour also had unhappy members throughout its 13 years in government. It comes with the territory.

As for the election in 2015, well we will see how we approach that when it comes. But it is no different to a junior coalition party in Wales or Scotland seeking to find a distinctive message from their partners at a subsequent election.

And let us get this clear once more, these are not ideological decisions, these are necessary hard choices because Labour screwed the country's finances and somebody had to put them back on track.
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