Norman Baker has had a good week. Two announcements about one of his first loves – sustainable transport. Technically, the one about trains wasn't his to make, but he supported the announcement by Simon Burns with his own enthusiasm. (There are respectable criticisms of the whole HS2 project from the sustainability point of view. In my view the whole idea became much better once it became clear that the line would run beyond Birmingham. And one of the most promoted ideas - that you can get bodies from London to Birmingham quicker - is, in my view, one of the weaker arguments in its favour, but that's for another post.) And then there was the announcement about funding to promote cycling - £62 million investment bringing the total announced over the last twelve months to £107 million. These are two of the most noticeable achievements of a steadily successful time at the Dept of Transport. I have to declare an interest – see below – but I believe that Norman can take quiet satisfaction from his time in office, putting Liberal Democrat principles and his personal priorities into action. These include improving local transport; expanding and improving the rail network; making transport more accessible; managing, improving and investing in the road network; and reducing greenhouse gases and other emissions from transport.
Promotion to office in government has deprived Parliament of one of its most effective practitioners at holding government to account. Labour has many fine performers but none, in my view, have the forensic tenacity that Norman displayed while in opposition. Arguably Parliament is the poorer for that. The compensation is a minister who is doing a good job at the complex art of governing.
My interest: I live in Norman's constituency, campaign for him and update his website. I do, however, continuously and forcefully make clear to him my dismay at the government's repugnant treatment of disabled people on benefits (see elsewhere in this blog), to the extent that the sight of an email from me sends a tremor down his spine. Not many people have that effect on him.