The Last Word

Issue 96

The recent investigation into the escalating cost of HS2 raises serious concerns at the appalling mismanagement and the deliberate steps taken to conceal the spiralling costs.

The original estimate of £36billion had escalated to £100billion by October when the Prime Minister announced the scrapping of the Birmingham to Manchester link. Whistleblowers were silenced or ignored.

If the overruns and and poor management at HS2 had been uncovered sooner, the Manchester section, headline of the levelling up agenda, may have been saved.

However, the whole egocentric project with inflated claims of what it would achieve for the country and the economy, has been trimmed to save massive overspending of taxpayers money. Back to the promise of dualling the A1, loose cash by comparison.

There remains the need for the public to know that there will be transparency in significant public sector projects to avoid similar fiascos in the future.

On a recent trip to a very sunny Alicante, I enjoyed a visit to the castle on top of Mount Benacantil, at a height of 166 metres, towering over the harbour and the marina. It rejoices in the name Castillo de Santa Bárbara, or as we might say, ‘Saint Barbara Castle’. An even more impressive recognition memorial to the Labour MP (First Secretary of State in Harold Wilson’s cabinet) than being Baroness of Blackburn.

The death of Sir Bobby Charlton has been mourned across the world. Bobby, a working class lad from Ashington, rose to become probably the greatest English footballer. Surviving the 1958 Munich air disaster, he won everything in football including the World Cup and the European Cup, and beat Eusebio to win the Ballon d’Or in 1966. We could vicariously celebrate his achievements as a Geordie.

What a pity he was not spotted by Newcastle United as was his mother’s cousin Jackie Milburn.

It is still heart warming to see the picture of Bobby and elder brother Jackie embrace at the end of the 1966 World Cup Final.

I was fortunate several times to see Bobby play at St James Park. He always managed to score against Newcastle.

The recent Mansion House speech by King Charles was welcome in stressing courtesy and Britain’s ‘deep wells’ of shared values of ‘civility and tolerance’, the space ‘to think and speak clearly’ and the ‘duty of care’ we owe to one another. He warned against a ‘shouting and incriminatory society’.

This may have seemed aposite when Sir Robert Simcox, the Commissioner for Countering Terrorism sounded an alarm that a good test for the health of any society is ‘to consider how it treats its Jewish population’. By this metric he said ‘the UK is very sick indeed’.

Following the brutal inhuman atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists in Israel on 7th October, killing over 2000 civilians, more than unease at 100,000 people marching in London with anti-Semitic chants and calls for ‘Jihad’; and a 1500% increase in anti-Semitic incidents?

Support from President Biden, many Western states and religious leaders and Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are reassuring. The irresponsible attitude of sections of the media, particularly the BBC, is not.


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