After the shameful “pause” in electrifying the Leeds-Manchester rail link, we now have the shamefaced about turn.

In June when the “pause” was announced, I described it as one of the most disgraceful decisions ever made because it undermined the Northern Powerhouse based on connectivity, it undermined companies’ procurement plans and finally politicians must have known before the election about the crisis in Network Rail that caused the decision to be taken.

Be in no doubt that the decision to reinstate the electrification is directly related to the fact that the Conservatives are in Manchester this weekend for their annual conference. The Chancellor George Osborne will want Ministers to make frequent references to the Northern Powerhouse. He didn’t want critics asking how meaningful the concept could be without better rail links between the two principal cities of the Powerhouse.

Two independent enquiries had been set up after the “pause” was announced. The hapless Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin told us no decisions would be taken until they reported. But George Osborne, who I understand wasn’t fully in the loop on the “pause” decision, can’t wait for the enquiries and has ordered the go-ahead to be given.

All this faffing around comes at a price. It has delayed the project by three years so passengers can carry on standing until 2022.


I understand the Tory conference may also be used for announcements about devolution deals for Sheffield and the North East where agreement has been reached on elected mayors. The latter will be small consolation to the steel workers of Redcar.


At least the Tories are in power, Labour look a long way from it. That’s my conclusion after spending some sun drenched days in Brighton. The moon turned red but I fear that was more a sign of the Gods’ displeasure than a happy omen for socialism.

Much of the press coverage of the new Labour leader is over the top. Jeremy Corbyn has revitalised his party, he has caught the mood of public disillusionment with speak your weight politicians and some of his policies (housing and rail) have considerable merit.

But the Trident row has immediately highlighted the inherent instability of his leadership. In all honesty who really thought Prime Minister Corbyn would authorise the use of nuclear weapons? But by definitively saying he wouldn’t he has fatally undermined his chances of victory in 2020.

Most of the Shadow Cabinet criticised him as did the big unions whose members are employed in the nuclear industry. But most seriously Corbyn says repeatedly he wants the party to be more democratic. They voted, against his wishes, not to discuss changing the multilateral disarmament policy at the conference. Instead a defence review is under way when the issue of Britain, under a Labour government, becoming unilateralist would be discussed.

But what is the point of Maria Eagle, the Shadow Defence Secretary and Garston MP beavering away on her review when the would be Prime Minister has already told our potential adversaries that he will blink first?

Perhaps the truth is that Jeremy Corbyn is determined to shake up the Labour Party, give it back its socialist principles and then hand over to someone more electable in a few years time.





I have rarely been so angered as I was on hearing the government had pulled the rug on major rail plans including the electrification of the Leeds- Manchester line.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this act of betrayal, almost deceit, being perpetrated on the people of the North. So here is a brief list of the things that were wrong with the announcement of the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Number one, the fundamental principle of the Northern Powerhouse is connectivity, bringing closer together the great cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull and Newcastle. This “pause” which is a Whitehall weasel word for cancel, drives a coach and horses through the whole proposition.

Number two, for decades businesses dependent on government contracts have complained about the stop start approach of Ministers. The reason why our infrastructure is so poor is that successive governments have kept turning the investment tap on and off, making long term planning impossible.

Number three, for a year in the run up to the General Election Tory politicians were promising more and more spending on our rail connections. They must have known at least some of the truth. No wonder people are utterly cynical about politicians’ promises.

Number four, the chairman of Network Rail is made the scapegoat when the Transport Secretary should have gone too.

And finally will Crossrail 2 in London be affected by this plan? I don’t expect so. In which case the huge disparity between transport spend in the capital and the North will widen still further.

The only answer is to to devolve most of the transport budget to a Northern devolved government where we can make decisions for ourselves.

So George Osborne, don’t dare to tell us how much you support the Northern Powerhouse when you announce your budget on Wednesday because few will believe you.


In his first budget this year George Osborne had Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander reminding him he was in a Coalition. Alexander has now gone back to his old job with the Highland Tourist Board for all I know. Anyway Osborne is now free to show us what the first fully Tory budget since 1997 looks like.

Will he implement £12bn of welfare cuts? Will he continue to hammer local council spending? Will he pursue an ideological approach to create a smaller state? The Chancellor has planned a roller-coaster of deep cuts at the beginning of the parliament followed by spending increases on the back of a surplus at the end. Great politics but it has attracted criticism from business that wants a smoother path to aid planning.

The Chancellor will have to fulfil his extraordinary promise to enshrine in law no increases in VAT, Income Tax and National Insurance. Other election promises centre around a rise in the threshold for Inheritance Tax and more measures on tax avoidance.

A growing issue is the UK’s poor productivity. Measures to tackle that would be good…..and that rail investment for the north.