It's been a busy week: A tour update
I was in Sheffield this week, meeting with local businesses to discuss the future for South Yorkshire. The truth is that Brexit - if it happens - will be a terrible blow for the city and the surrounding region. South Yorkshire’s economy is intimately intertwined with Europe’s - any and all barriers to the export of goods or the import of skills will do huge damage. But while stopping Brexit is necessary to a Yorkshire renaissance, it is not sufficient. The county needs to seize every opportunity available if it is to live up to its potential.
That is why South Yorkshire’s new Mayor - the excellent former soldier and very effective MP Dan Jarvis - has such a big and important job to do. He has to make sure that every penny of investment creates dividends for local businesses and local people. Brexit is a disaster but we must not imagine that stopping Brexit fixes everything. There is a lot of hard work to do alongside our campaign to preserve the benefits of membership of the EU - in Sheffield, t hat was very apparent.
Crucial will be making the most of HS2 - a project I pioneered as Transport Secretary - when it arrives. I have called on Dan Jarvis to take back control - drawing up a regional master plan with HS2 at its heart, to ensure that the whole county is focused on getting the most out of their new, super fast rail line. Infrastructure is only ever part of the regeneration picture. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Railways have been front of mind for me this week (in truth, as an avid trainspotter, they are never far from there!).On Wednesday Transport Secretary Chris Grayling finally backed down over his plan to give multi-millionaires Richard Branson and Brian Souter a huge taxpayer bailout for their failing East Coast Mainline service. Instead, Grayling finally gave in to common sense and to a long-running campaign that I and others have been fighting. He nationalised the East Coast Mainline. This is a much better deal for taxpayers and fare-payers alike. You can read my thoughts on what needs to happen next here, in the Guardian.
Alongside my tour and the two books on Brexit that I have been writing, I have been glued to the House of Lords for at least two days of every week for the last few months. We have been debating the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Government has been defeated on crucial elements of this awful legislation 16 times by me and my colleagues.
The Lords is not normally a combative or particularly dramatic place but these last few months we have seen unprecedented rebellion and high stakes politics. Good people have voted with their consciences and have rejected party politics and very aggressive whipping in order to do what is right. Now it is up to the Commons to consider the issues - particularly on the Customs Union, Single Market and on the Good Friday Agreement - that we are beseeching them to think seriously about. You can read my speech here.
In the meantime, Theresa May is busy (unconstitutionally) packing the Lords with ‘yes’ men and women in the hope of avoiding further scrutiny. This is an outrage and I hope that you will write to your Member of Parliament to express your concern. The Brexiteers once argued for ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’. It is now clear that what they actually want is to silence all dissent. This is unacceptable and fundamentally un-British.
Next week I am off to the West Country and to Cumbria but this weekend I will be raising a glass to Prince Harry and to (future) Princess Meghan. A happy, confident and outward looking couple, they are the very picture of the Britain we want to be. Let’s all wish them a long, loving life together as we fight together to be the Britain that they embody.