Job on the line over rail plans - Minister's threat

Councillors in Amersham have a lot on their plate at the moment.

The agenda for this week's meeting included the approval of a firewood harvester, a new lease for the local bowling green and an update on Amersham in Bloom.

There is also the elephant in the room known as HS2 - the UK Government's plans for a high speed rail route through this green and pleasant land.

Before you wonder what on earth this development in Buckinghamshire has to do with Welsh politics, remember the local MP happens to be Secretary of State for Wales.

Cheryl Gillan has told the Sunday Times she would not only quit as a cabinet minister but would also resign the Conservative whip - effectively leaving the party - if the proposed route goes ahead.

Caerphilly Labour MP Wayne David was so concerned about her job prospects he raised the case during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons

"The Secretary of State for Wales has said that she is prepared to be sacked because of her opposition to Government policy on high-speed rail. Will the Prime Minister take her up on that very kind offer?"

Cue laughter all round. David Cameron sidestepped the question by focusing on Mrs Gillan's role in securing the promise of electrification for the line between London and Cardiff.


The PM supports the HS2 project as he believes it will help rebalance the economy by improving links between north and south. One rail expert has suggested it could even benefit north and mid Wales, although the secretary of state is not convinced by that.

It is an extraordinary row: an outspoken Cabinet Minister and activists in one of the safest Tory seats at odds with their government. The local party has cut its financial contribution to Conservative HQ and reports weekly resignations from members over the issue.

There is a local history of sacrifice. On the hill above the town stands a memorial to the Amersham Martyrs who were burned at the stake over their religious beliefs in the 16th century.

There's no suggestion of similar plans over HS2 although, on the basis of my short visit to Amersham, there's little doubt her constituents not only agree with Cheryl Gillan but support her stance.

When will the crunch come? A parliamentary vote may still be some years off but a government decision on the route is expected this December. It's then that Cheryl Gillan may have to choose between her cabinet job and her constituents.

You can see more on my visit to Amersham on Dragon's Eye with the programme repeated on Sunday at 1630 on BBC Parliament.