Mud not sticking to Tories

IT'S a political mystery. “Tory sleaze” - the two words which did for John Major in 1997 have resurfaced but aren't impacting on David Cameron and his new model Conservatives, now 23% ahead in the latest opinion poll.

Graham Dines

IT'S a political mystery. “Tory sleaze” - the two words which did for John Major in 1997 have resurfaced but aren't impacting on David Cameron and his new model Conservatives, now 23% ahead in the latest opinion poll.

At least three Conservative Euro MPs are mired in allegations about their expenses. At Westminster, it emerges that MP Derek Conway paid his son handsomely for research he did not do, Tory Party chairman Caroline Spelman is being investigated over claiming from the public purse for her nanny, and husband and wife Tory MPs Nicholas and Ann Winterton have been rebuked by the Standards and Privileges Committee for buying a London flat outright using their additional costs allowance (ACA) and then effectively renting it from themselves, still using the allowance.

That the newspapers are not “going big” on these issues indicates a collective view that Brown is long past being saved, there's no recognisable Labour alternative prepared to bring the Prime Minister down, and that the voters really like Cameron, who week after week is deft at identifying Labour's shrinking reputation for economic competence.


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And any hope Labour might have had over whipping up a media storm over “Tory sleaze” evaporates because Labour MPs are in the vanguard of demanding a massive pay rise for themselves - which the public think is a damn cheek, MPs should share the financial pain with their constituents - and Labour MP and East of England minister Barbara Follett is paying her window cleaner out of the ACA.

IF you've ever travelled on France's high speed rail network, you'll have noticed that few of the routes pass through city centres. Lines are built around conurbations, for example Lyons, which are served by what we call parkways stations.

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Rail chiefs yesterday hinted that by 2025, the UK could have five such routes to cater for the burgeoning number of passengers using services north and west of London - Chiltern, East Coast, West Coast, Great Western and Midland Main Line.

The one which impacts on our region is the East Coast line. The existing interchange at Peterborough would be sidelined by any high speed route, which means the rail service from Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds would need extending to the parkway.

High speed lines would have to by-pass the viaducts at Welwyn Garden City, Durham, Newcastle-on-Tyne and Berwick-on-Tweed - engineering marvels when they were constructed in the 19th century but completely incapable of being widened to accommodate extra track.

Network Rail's chief executive Iain Coucher says: “With popularity for rail growing, we have to start planning for the medium and long-term future today. We have to see how we can meet the capacity challenge and see what solutions - including potentially, that of new lines - are deliverable and affordable.”

No such problems in France, where the economic benefits of rail travel have long been recognised. And the French seem to have no truck with objectors to major engineering project - from conception to completion via construction takes a few years rather the decades of red tape Britain.

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