Yes, you read that headline right.
For all the understandable interest in Tory opposition – including Tatton councillors in Saturday’s FT – the overwhelming impression from the green benches yesterday was one of support for the controversial high-speed rail line. Here is the official account in Hansard.
It’s less interesting for journalists like myself, who thrive on controversy. The idea of a wave of Tory MPs kicking the project – when it also faces mass legal actions – is an enticing one.
But an honest appraisal of Monday’s debate would support the suggestion by Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, of a cross-party consensus.
So on the “no” ranks were Cheryl Gillan, Andrew Bridgen (whose house is 100 ft from the route), Michael Fabricant (“it blights the environment, homes and lives”) and Andrea Leadsom.
None of these were a surprise. (Interestingly, none of the anti’s were returning calls last night, suggesting that the whips have put the silencers on them.)
In the “yes” ranks were countless Tory MPs.
There was Sir Alan Haselhurst, calling for HS2 to be “hailed” as “the most dramatic attempt yet” to rebalance the country.
And Graham Brady, calling for generous compensation but “warmly endorsing” the route and its stop at Manchester airport.
Then Richard Harrington, commending the “courageous and very significant announcement”, Nigel Mills, giving it a “warm welcome”, Andrew Jones calling it an “excellent statement” and so on. In the words of Michael Ellis it was a “courageous statement and one that has support from all corners of the House.”
David Mowat praised the business case, saying it was more convincing than that for Crossrail. David Rutley called it “positive news for the north-west” while Paul Maynard called it “a demonstration of our party’s commitment to the north of England.” Ben Wallace pointed out that the public would benefit from reduced journey times, whether or not they had a stop.
This doesn’t mean that there weren’t other Tory MPs sitting on the fence and making suggestions which weren’t entirely positive.
For example John Stevenson asked for a pledge that investment in the existing West Coast Mainline would continue. Christopher Pincher noted that the line would run close to his constituency, and asked for mitigation. Philip Hollobone sought assurances that work on the tracks and equipment would be done in Britain.
But the overall message from the Tory benches: a big welcome for the project.