High-speed HS2 rail link: Rishi Sunak's mantra about 'long-term decisions' at odds with expected decision to scrap Birmingham-Manchester leg – Scotsman comment
In 2010, the then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg took a good long look at being foresighted, and decided against it. Dismissing the idea of building new nuclear power stations, he said there was “no way” they would come on stream until 2021 or 2022. “So it’s just not even an answer,” he said.
Clegg could not have foreseen the Ukraine War, but he could perhaps have considered the risk of an oil-and-gas crisis of some kind. If he had, the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, driven by soaring fossil fuel prices, might have been less severe. While our inflation rate rose to more than ten per cent, in France, where nuclear provides about 70 per cent of electricity generation, it peaked at just over six per cent.
In contrast to Clegg’s defiant short-termism, the mantra at the Conservative party conference is “long-term decisions for a brighter future”. However, this clashed more than a little awkwardly with one of the main topics of conversation in the halls yesterday: Rishi Sunak’s apparent intention to scrap the planned Birmingham-Manchester section of the high-speed HS2 rail line. Downing Street has insisted the final decision has not been taken, but the signs do not look good for those hoping for progress towards the modernisation of our ageing railway infrastructure and the economic boost this would bring.
Sunak may well justify his expected announcement by saying it cannot be afforded at this time. The problem, however, is that a succession of such decisions will damage the future economy and make it less likely that other major infrastructure projects will go ahead, in a depressing, downward spiral.
Constantly prioritising short-term interests over the future may help win elections but it also damages the country. This is particularly true when the world is moving towards an economy based almost entirely on electricity.
As the party conference season continues, it will be interesting to see if politicians are interested in looking beyond the general election expected next year and whether they are willing to even contemplate the idea of this generation making sacrifices to better the lot of the next, as our grandparents once did.
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