Monday, 6 October 2008

Reshuffle (2): Tom Harris

Who knows what was in Gordon Brown's mind when he sacked Tom Harris from the government over the weekend: these things often seem unfathomable, with pretty useless people being promoted while manifest talent is left to rot on the back benches.  It was ever thus: I remember Harold Wilson's inexplicable failure to give jobs to Brian Walden, John Mackintosh and Tom Ellis.

In the case of Tom Harris as Rail Minister, though, one can only say "good riddance". What was the point of giving that particular job to a man who doesn't like railways? He it was who put forward the preposterous idea that the government should be "modally agnostic", i.e. he could not bring himself to say that it is better for us all if more people go by train and fewer by car.

Of course he could just have been parroting what his civil servants told him to say. The head of rail at the DfT, Dr Mike Mitchell, has been fingered many times in the railway technical press as the source of a great deal of nonsense, notably the department's rabid opposition to further electrification until it was forced recently into a U-turn.

UPDATE:  Christian Wolmar now reveals that Tom Harris admitted to him that he (Harris) had got it wrong about modal agnosticism.

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