With the election approaching and a Conservative victory widely predicted, it is a good time to wonder what a popular mandate for "Mayism", unfettered by a slender Commons majority, might mean for transport.
Born in Home Counties and forged at the Home Office, "Mayism" is more of a mindset or an instinct than a manifesto. Its values are decency and fairness, it prefers the proven over the theoretical, and it eschews ideology.
There's no transport policy in Mayism. But with some informed speculation it is possible to tease out certain tendencies that will be relevant to transport policy.
Mayism is about taking tough decisions. The prime minister thinks that her sensible, deliberative, anti-political approach is good at cracking "the big problems". She is proud of her announcement on Heathrow and the determined implementation of the political settlement.
Nonetheless, Mayism doesn't want to overturn industries, at least not this side of Brexit. Privatising Network Rail or the road network, or nationalising the train operators, is not on the agenda. Nor is it ideologically committed to balancing the budget. Fiscal pressure on HS2, overspending CP5 projects and the draft CP6 budget are reduced.
Mayism is pro-business, but is sceptical of the way big business treats the little guy. This was best articulated by Chris Grayling's challenging "we must focus on passengers" speech in December last year. Mayism wants to make life better for ordinary people by addressing the sort of thoughtless, petty niggles that drive voters mad. Ryanair better watch out. The train industry should redouble its efforts to sort out its baffling ticketing arrangements. Mayism loves innovation and wants to help (with, for instance, industrial strategies and energetic export trips), but is intolerant of "crony capitalism". The energy price cap is an example of Downing Street's willingness to intervene when angered (and the polls align). Look out, Network Rail contractors who run over budget and platforms like Uber or Deliveroo which take unfair advantage of the tax system or take advantage of their workers.
Mayism is worried about the bosses who seemingly take the mick. "We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us," the PM said as she entered Downing Street for the first time. Chief executives need to look at their remuneration arrangements, particularly if they are handling taxpayers' money. PFI investors should expect scrutiny. By the same logic, over-reaching train drivers will get no sympathy.
Mayism is proud of British businesses, particularly if they are keen to export. Similarly, it is worried about British businesses suffering from unfair competition from overseas competitors, especially if they are state-sponsored. Foreign businesses need to ensure they are giving a fair deal to British workers, taxpayers and the economy. Foreign-owned train operators, train manufacturers, state-owned airlines and subsidy supported car manufacturers should audit their Britishness.
Lastly, Mayists recognise that affordable transport can support social mobility and is part of the story of bringing the country back together again. So the Conservatives' seemingly incongruous support for public transport investment seems likely to continue.
Reference: Transport Times May 2017 Issue
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