The Prime Minister was no match for the UK’s oldest MP on 1 November. Theresa May’s comeback had MPs in hysterics. Kicking off Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Dennis Skinner spoke [0.11] out about the development of the High Speed Two (HS2) railway:
Is the Prime Minister aware there’s been some very powerful research done on the question of High Speed Rail… In the leafy suburbs of the south, the first 140 miles, 30% of it has been dedicated to tunnelling to avoid knocking houses down. Yet in the north we are now told that the percentage is only 2% for the whole of the north. Why? Because HS2 says ‘it’s too costly: Knock the houses down!’ … Isn’t it high time that this government stop treating our people like second-class citizens?
Of course, Hs2, the reason why we are doing HS2, is that it is important to increase the capacity of the railway lines going through to the north… I can assure him that if he looks at everything this government has done with the northern powerhouse, the midlands engine…
MPs then cut May off, laughing at her talk of a “northern powerhouse”. Critics have long branded the initiative a “joke”, given that 97.6% of senior civil servants at the department delivering the northern powerhouse are based in London.
Always a good start to #pmqs when Dennis Skinner asks the first question, PM laughed at when she mentions Northern powerhouse in response!
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— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) November 1, 2017
The non-existent growth in the north
But the government’s apparent disregard for the north goes beyond this. Any talk of growth – let alone a ‘powerhouse’ – is demonstrably misleading. In fact, London and the south-east are the only two regions that are better off today than in 2007. Nowhere else is experiencing a recovery and some other regions are in a depression:
The north-east, the north-west, and Yorkshire and The Humber are all much worse off than a decade ago. Yet, in response to Skinner, the Prime Minister suggested [1.55] there has been fair investment “across all parts of the country” to ensure the nation “works for everyone”.
Skinner, who represents the northern constituency of Bolsover, took May apart on the glaring injustice dogging HS2. For infrastructure that will supposedly better the north, HS2 is hardly getting off to a promising start. May’s comeback was so brittle that MPs could only laugh.
Watch the exchange here:
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