Is the £15bn for new roads a vote winner?

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The newspapers are saying the announcement of new money for road improvements is all about appealing to voters in marginal seats. There are three problems with that.

  1. These are trunk roads; the drivers benefitting from money spent in a particular constituency are mostly just passing through. So it is difficult to say spending money on the M3 in Winchester, for example, is a bribe not to vote for UKIP there. Danny Alexander actually tried to hint that the money targeted Lib Dem votes, coyly suggesting Lib Dems represented deserving areas, like the south west of England;
  2. Yes, two-thirds of the money is being spent in Conservative areas - but that's because Labour gets more votes in cities, and this is money for improvements to trunk roads, which are likely to be in the countryside between cities. It's suggested more Conservatives drive rather than use public transport, but infrastructure plans actually earmark more than twice as much for rail than announced for roads;
  3. Are road schemes really a vote winner? NOT if your house is on the route of the A27, or you think more roads simply encourages more traffic. How much chaos will there be for drivers as the road is re-built? Or as protesters try to protect that piece of ancient woodland.

Election timing

However, the timing of this is all about the election.

Just listen to Nick Clegg and David Cameron: both adding to the traffic heading for Stonehenge, and the prime minister very keen to point out that he pressed the button to give the tunnel the go-ahead.

The way ministers are travelling out to pick up the headlines is all about driving public opinion. They think they're offering us hope, without the pain of paying for it.

Is that light at the end of the tunnel? Or the brake lights of yet another jam?