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Billions for HS2: where's Cornwall's share?

By West Briton  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

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THE Chancellor's Budget is more vaudeville theatre than it is an accountant's plenary.

The speech itself is judged more by the intrigue it has generated; and the surprises, "giveaways", "winners" and "losers".

The dry, tedious scrutiny of what actually lies in the Chancellor's Red Book takes many more days to complete and often alters the initial perception, so carefully spun by the Chancellor.

Whether the strength of the economy is good fortune more than good management will be a matter for debate. But with the expectation of sustainable growth, falling inflation and stable interest rates the prospects are good.

Whether the recovery is benefiting the whole country or, as many fear, just London and the South East, needs a closer look.

Certainly, with £27 billion committed to Crossrail (benefiting London and the South East) and more than £50 billion for HS2 (which many believe will suck wealth from the North to London) that region appears to be getting a lion's share of the investment as well.

It is not unreasonable for us to demand a fraction of that investment for the people who live in Cornwall and Scilly.


The Chancellor is one of a small team of ministers educated in Britain's top public schools.

Something Schools Secretary Michael Gove commented on this week.

He is "burning with indignation that money can still buy the education that opens doors to the top jobs in Britain today, while the state school system allows talent to go to waste".

I suppose I am something of a rarity in west Cornwall – a state school-educated boy from a modest background; as I have been for some time. But I don't think it helps to be fixated on background nor the implied "class war" that underlies it and the risk of ending up with a "chip on the shoulder" when daring to mention the subject.

At the end of the day, people look at and judge you on what you do, rather than on the presentational skills and self-confidence which a public school education can provide.

Indeed, not all of the privately educated argue for the status quo.

The almost Thatcher-level national mourning of the death of (Westminster School-educated) Tony Benn is a case in point.

Even his most bitter opponents managed to find something nice to say about him.

In that everyone else is coming out with a Tony Benn anecdote these days, let me tell you a small one of my own:

Just after his son, Hilary, was elected to Parliament in 1999 I saw the two of them standing arm in arm after a vote in the Lobbies of the Commons.

Though I didn't think they'd be particularly interested I recounted the time when I first stood for Parliament and was reminded by many locals that my father had successfully stood for election on the local parish council decades before.

I told the Benns that many would come up to me saying: "Well, if you're 'alf as good as your fether you're gud 'nuff fur me!", to which I used to reply "well, I'm twice as good ... but half as modest!" They seemed to enjoy that ....

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