Chris Grayling is MP for Epsom and Ewell, and Secretary of State for Transport.
It’s never easy taking the biggest decisions in politics. For decades, governments have found it easier to kick them into the long grass, or avoid them altogether. But unless we are bold, we will never give ourselves the foundations we need for the future.
In the post-Brexit world, and in a country that is now determined to build new trading ties around the world and a more entrepreneurial economy at home, ducking the big decisions is simply not an option. And we aren’t.
In the four months since Theresa May took over as Prime Minister we have taken a whole series of key decisions that will shape that future for us.
Our energy needs will be shaped by the confirmation that Hinckley Point will go ahead, and that fracking will now be permitted in the UK. We have watched with envy as US energy prices have fallen and its dependence on imported oil from troubled parts of the world has diminished. Britain has reserves of shale gas too. It would be crazy not to exploit them.
Our decision to recommend the expansion of Heathrow isn’t one we have taken on a wing and a prayer. It’s vital to our future. We considered all the options and all the issues very carefully. But the trading links that Liam Fox is building will need the best possible connectivity to London, and Heathrow is by far the best placed to meet those future needs.
Many people will say they have heard it all before – and in the case of Heathrow, they have. But this is a government that intends to deliver.
This morning we have announced a similar big step for our railways – with the detail of the preferred route that HS2 will take to the North. It’s a decision that create better, faster links between the great cities of the Midlands and the North. It’s proof that we are building the 21st Century transport networks our country needs and delivering an economy that works for everyone.
The Northern sections of HS2 – from Crewe to Manchester, and from the West Midlands to Leeds – will bring the North and the Midlands together, slash journey times and, perhaps most importantly, give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory. Some Conservatives will remain opposed to the project. But those who oppose the route are also those who sit frustrated in traffic jams on our motorways, and wish we could get more of those heavy lorries off the roads.
Well, we can. But we need more capacity on our railways to do it. HS2 is a project that will dramatically expand the capacity of our rail network. At Euston alone it will double the amount of seats for commuters in the morning rush hour, as the express trains move off the current line, leaving more space for freight and rush hour trains. And if we are going to build something new, why wouldn’t we build something that’s state of the art? That’s the kind of country we need to be for the future.
But where are Labour in all of this? There was a time when they would have shared our view of a dynamic Britain that works for everyone in it. A Britain that unleashes the potential of our people and our enterprises.
But as we have taken the bold decisions, so they have retreated further and further into the past. When we announced the new runway plan for Heathrow, Iain Dale tried and tried to get my counterpart, Andy McDonald, to say whether he supported it or would have chosen Gatwick instead. He couldn’t even answer the question.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour have lined up to oppose fracking and say they would ban it – depriving this country of its most plentiful potential source of cheap energy from the cleanest of the fossil fuels.
And as we spend billions on modernising our railways, with new, state of the art trains in the South and the North, more capacity and new ways of working to improve services – a process of modernisation that is affecting most industries – so Labour are lining up with the unions to take this country back a generation and not forward.
Tony Blair’s government would have condemned the militant union leaders who are trying to impose their will on the country at the expense of the passengers they simply don’t care about. Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench join them on the protest lines.
And when Nissan announced not only that they were keeping the current models in Sunderland, but would be expanding their plant still further, Labour could barely even bring themselves to welcome the news.
Never has the difference between the two sides been more stark. A Government that is not afraid to take the big decisions, up against an Opposition that wishes we could turn the clock back to their good old days of socialism, state ownership and strikes.
We have won all those arguments before. We did it the last time we had a woman as Prime Minister.
And now we will have to do the same thing all over again – and demonstrate why we have the right path for our futures, and they do not.