Andy Street says he 'was never going to quit' as West Midlands mayor over scrapping of HS2
Andy Street says he 'was never going to quit' as West Midlands mayor over HS2
Andy Street is staying put at West Midlands Mayor – but he did admit he considered resigning from the Conservative Party over the scrapping of HS2.
Mr Street revealed he had long discussions with Rishi Sunak and that it was following those talks that he decided he was staying put.
He said he was “incredibly disappointed” by Mr Sunak’s HS2 decision but that he was now determined to work to achieve funding to improve existing transport infrastructure in the West Midlands.
Rumours spread about Mr Street’s future ahead of the PM’s speech to the Tory conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
The mayor insisted he had already made his decision to stay ahead of the speech and said he wished to continue in the Conservative Party and to defend his mayorship when the next election comes around.
He said he had "thought incredibly long and hard about what my future in the Conservative Party should be”, but had decided to remain a member.
Mr Street also held out hope that the idea of a high-speed rail link to Manchester could be revived by a private sector consortium despite the Prime Minister’s “agonising” decision to scrap the plan.
“The West Midlands must be at the heart of the UK’s modern transport network and reap all the benefits that will bring,” he said.
“The Prime Minister has today reached out to work with me to make that happen, and to turn my back on that offer would be doing a serious disservice to my region.
“I know this decision will make me deeply unpopular in some circles, and indeed many wanted me to resign and make a statement against my party.
“But I have always said that I would put place before party and staying as a Conservative to work with the Prime Minister and his Government to continue the revival of the West Midlands is doing exactly that.”
Mr Street said he decided to remain in the party after receiving a reassurance from Rishi Sunak that money would be invested in public transport,
He said: “This is not a one-nil loss. I will remain a member of the Conservative party.
“I have never said that I was considering resigning. Lots of journalists have said it to me very vociferously. I did not answer the question.”
He added: “Of course I’ve thought about it - but I was never going to quit as mayor.”
Mr Street had earlier said scrapping HS2 to Manchester would be “an incredible political gaffe” allowing opponents to accuse Mr Sunak of having decided to “shaft the North” while in Manchester.
The mayor delayed a planned trip to Munich, where he had intended to drum up investment for his region, instead choosing to stay in Manchester.
He said: “I’m very disappointed, I fought hard for it to be maintained, but remember the line is going to run from Euston to Handsacre where it will join the West Coast mainline, so compared to what could have happened, this is a good compromise position.
“I really believe it is the right thing to do to have a line that provides a spine through the whole of the country, and also ask him to consider the offer for the private sector of how to deliver this well, and you have heard the Prime Minister say today, and this is an important thing he said, that he would welcome working with me on improving those further links from Birmingham to Manchester, that’s a good thing to be offered."
Mr Street said his meeting with the Prime Minister had been “cordial”.
He added: “The Prime Minister would say there was a difference of opinion, but in politics it is a good thing to have that robustly and objectively based on fact. Some you win, some you lose, but there is a bigger picture here, it is the revival of the West Midlands, and rail will continue to play a critical role.
“Delusion or not, I believe through this work a high-speed link between Birmingham and Manchester can be revived.
“Crucially, the private sector companies I have on board feel the same.
“Do not forget that HS2 was never meant to reach Manchester until 2041 and so I am convinced we can find a way to get back on track.
“Greater Manchester has so much in common with the West Midlands and I would never sell out our allies.
“I remain as committed as ever to a future high-speed link between our two great regions.”