The press picked up an important story about HS2 over the week-end. They claim that Mr Cameron will drop HS2 if Labour turn against the project. This makes sense.
A large project like HS2 would benefit from cross party support. As it will take so long to construct its build period is likely to span different governments. It is easier to do well if all involved agree with it. More importantly, in this Parliament HS2 is only proceeding because of Labour support. There are enough Conservative and other MP opponents of HS2 to stop it if all Labour MPs voted against. All the time Labour votes for HS2 or abstains, it has enough votes to carry.
Many people find this Parliamentary arithmetic difficult to grasp, yet it is the same arithmetic which means all the time Labour and Lib Dems block a referendum on the EU we cannot have one, and the same arithmetic which finally led to a vote for a lower EU budget when Labour switched sides and joined Conservatives. Labour votes with the Coalition government to push through many EU measures.
By saying they will make a decision later rather than sooner Labour are being indulgent with themselves and with public money. If it is Labour’s intention later this Parliament to kill off the HS2 project by coming out against it and voting with other opponents in the Commons to stop it, they should understand that means more wasted money in the meantime. If this Coalition government does not have the votes to carry the project right through this Parliament owing to a future change by Labour, it would better to kill it off now. That will require Labour honesty about their future voting intentions and a sense of responsibility with public money. In this Parliament Labour cannot always enjoy the luxury of opposition, as their votes do determine a good number of policies. In this case Labour is helping push through spending on a project which they now say they may wish to cancel later. The Coalition government has been proceeding on the basis that Labour invented this project and will continue to support it.