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Now Boris takes on Cameron over HS2

By Paul Goodman
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Boris and David Cameron

First it was a referendum on Lisbon.

Then top rate tax.

Then Crossrail.

Then an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Then the Government's housing benefit plans, which he said could lead to "Kosovo-style social cleansing in London".

Then new anti-strike laws.

Then Greece leaving the Euro.

Then Ken Clarke's plans for "soft sentences".And now he's making a new push on HS2.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Boris Johnson has snubbed the project as "perverse" and "inadequate" in a letter to anti-HS2 campaigners.  The letter says:

"While I have expressed support for a high speed rail network in the past (and continue to support it in principle) my support is conditional on a number of specific criteria and on the need to make the new railway work well for London.

"The proposal now being consulted on does not reflect these conditions and is inadequate for a number of reasons."

"It is perverse that a section of the route through Greater London, clearly affecting large numbers of people, has been subject to so little environmental mitigation.

"I am seeking substantial changes in design of the route to ensure these impacts are properly addressed, preferably by tunneling the whole route through London."Without such changes I cannot support the current proposal."

Boris complains that the planned HS2 station at Old Oak Common won't be properly "plugged in" to London's transport infrastructuree, and wants new underground rail capacity between Euston and Victoria if the scheme is to go ahead.  It is reported elsewhere that the Government believes his recommendations on the latter point are vague.

This isn't the first time that Boris has been reported to oppose HS2 in its current form.  Matthew Barrett noted his opposition on this site in May while the AV referendum and local elections were raging outside London.  But the Sunday Telegraph's reporting ramps the story up and gives it a new sense of projection in the national media.

Never forget that there's a double aspect to most of Boris's interventions.

  • They're helpful to David Cameron.  This may seem an odd take on events, given the media trouble that some of Boris's pronouncements have caused - especially over Europe.  But the Prime Minister is desparate for a Boris win next year as the springboard for his own planned 2015 campaign.  An independent voice is far more likely to triumph than a Cameron echo.  Who could more distinctively provide such differentiation than Boris?  The Prime Minister and the Mayor need each other.  They're like two men negotiating a desert while shackled to each other.


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