Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Man Who Won't Let the Tubes Run on Time

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Man Who Won't Let the Tubes Run on Time

Article excerpt


PERHAPS it is down to some kind of mental anaemia brought on by his newly red-meat-free diet, but Roy Hattersley's sycophantic analysis of Gordon Brown in a Sunday paper seemed unusually feeble even by his standards. Somehow his Lordship had been convinced that Mr Brown is a redistributive socialist with a mad yearning for equality.

Admittedly, the timing was unlucky, since only this week has it become crystal clear that it is Gordon who - for mixed reasons (personal, in that he hates Ken; ideological, in that he is in love with US-style free marketeering; and, above all, monomaniacal, in that he dare not back down and lose face) has been resisting the Kiley plan to rescue the Underground.

Previously John Prescott took the flak, absurdly so since Mr Prescott wouldn't be entrusted with ordering the biscuits for Cabinet meetings. No, he was simply Gordon's patsy, just as Harriet Harman was when Gordon made her present his plans to cut single mothers' benefits as her own, at the small cost of her career.

Anyone waiting 30 minutes and more in Monday evening's rush hour for an eastbound Hammersmith and City train knows how atrocious the system is, and people are desperate for Mr Kiley to be allowed to do here what he did in New York.

Everyone feels almost blessed to have him - everyone, of course, except Gordon and the Treasury, whose concerns are not for safety or reliability but their beloved Public Sector Borrowing Requirement and their respective primacy in Whitehall and Cabinet. Just as Mr Brown was less worried about patients than his balance sheet in sticking to Ken Clarke's facetious spending plans, with the result that the Treasury overflowed with cash while thousands of heart, renal and cancer patients died needlessly, so one suspects with the Tube that there is no sacrifice he would not make in the pursuit of his personal ambition.

Perhaps it is harsh to blame Lord Hattersley for falling for the con trick, because cleverer people than he have been taken in by the Red Gordon act regularly delivered to trade unions and others eager to believe in the firebrand who hints (quite falsely) at growing up on the shipyards of the Clyde and his passion for equality. But that was then.

Now we see clearly his role in the Underground - and at least now he knows that, if it all goes wrong, London will hold him directly and personally responsible.

AS so often, a national crisis reminds us of PG Wodehouse, and this time it's the stock scene in which the abandonment of racing (due to a freeze rather than foot and mouth) forces Bertie and the boys down the Drones to bet on flies moving up windows.

So don't pity the farmers; pity the punters - and if Cheltenham is cancelled, pity above all the thousands of whiskey priests who come over from Ireland each March for the festival. …

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