The National:

IF anything was clear from Labour leader Keir Starmer’s appearance on BBC Breakfast today, it was that any boost in his party’s polling of late was almost certainly not down to him.

Starmer was on the programme attempting to amplify the voices of people living in northern England who are rightfully furious about the scrapping of the HS2 leg to Leeds.

Several papers in northern England have run with angry messages to the UK Government, including a brilliant splash from the Sheffield Telegraph which reads: “Cancelled: We are sorry to announce on platform one that the HS2 link to Sheffield has been scrapped. This is due to lies on the line.”


But during his interview Starmer didn’t really reflect the genuine anger felt by people in the region, who were promised something for years only for it to be put on the scrapheap.

In one example of Starmer trying to express rage at the Government, he said ministers should “jolly well” keep their promises. That should show them!

Starmer was also asked by the presenter about whether the high-speed rail project should go to Scotland – something which his party backed at the 2019 General Election.

“Would you commit to that?” the host asked the politician. The answer was ... interesting.

“I think it does need to go to Scotland,” he said – fair enough. But where he went next was truly bizarre.

“I’ve always argued that HS2 – the building and construction of HS2 should have started in the north. If it had started in Leeds and Manchester and built its way down we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in now. If this doesn’t link up the north then it’s the north that’s being let down by this government.

"That’s why the anger that you’re picking up is for real. And it is that deep sense of betrayal from a Prime Minister who promises the Earth and delivers nothing.”

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What? It seems Starmer is geographically challenged. If he wanted HS2 to start in the north of England and go south, how exactly does that fit with going to Scotland?

Perhaps he imagines HS2 as a big Scalextric track that sort of winds its way across Britain?

It came across like Starmer was unprepared to answer anything beyond what was prepared for him by his team, who are understandably focused on “the north” given their Red Wall failings.

But Scotland is in the north, and Scotland is furious with this UK Government. How hard would it have been to give a proper answer, rather than some garbled nonsense about building techniques?

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During the interview, the former shadow Brexit secretary was also challenged on his previous complaints about HS2. He had called on constituents to focus on “fighting HS2 together” just a few years ago.

He argued his opposition at the time was reflective of concerns over construction from constituents and it is “water under the bridge” now.

But it’s further evidence that the Labour leader has no firm or fixed positions on anything, rather like Boris Johnson really …