UK’s woeful lack of vision: Politicians must learn to stick to long-term goals, says ALEX BRUMMER

The great vision of Victorian thinkers and engineers lives on in the railways, the Bazalgette sewers, Brunel bridges and the town halls which grace the nation’s industrial cities. 

Contemporary political leaders fail us with a lack of resolve essential to guiding imaginary projects through to completion.

There is much hand-wringing about low productivity and growth in the UK. How much better the output potential of Britain would have been if the Tories fully backed not just Hinkley but Heathrow and HS2 as well.

Of the three Hs, only Hinkley in Somerset – the super-nuclear power station – looks as if it will be completed. 

And why is that possible? It is being managed by French-state owned ÉDF with the support of Chinese finance and an intelligent pricing policy.

The vision of the Victorians lives on in the railways, bridges such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol (pictured) and the glorious town halls which grace the nation’s industrial cities

Former chancellor George Osborne was castigated for using a strike price for the electricity generated at twice the grid tariff at the time of commission. It has proved to be a judgement that has served the nation.

Contrast Osborne’s willingness to overrule penny pinching in Whitehall with the pricing foul-up over the most recent auction of offshore wind licences.

A pre-Christmas decision in Whitehall to raise the strike price for wind power off the Norfolk coast by as much as 66 per cent was required to stop Sweden’s Vattenfall pulling out and to bring German utility RWE in as an investor. 

All the wrangling delayed the project and cast economic uncertainty over job prospects.

The second H, Heathrow, is vital to the national interest. Business and financial services generate much of the nation’s wealth and Heathrow needs to be a superb hub to support Britain’s role.

But instead, our biggest airport has a reputation for overcrowding, poor passenger experience, take-off and landing delays, over-charging for parking and long, uncomfortable bus rides from airside to terminals.

A third runway would not on its own solve these problems. But it would put in place the infrastructure which could overcome delays and provide the essential capacity to compete with Frankfurt, Paris and Dubai. 

Haphazard Spanish control by construction group Ferrovial largely is responsible for the lack of investment which has contributed to the nightmare.

Finally, there is HS2. Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the project is the biggest economic blunder of his trouble-strewn administration. 

Transport experts and businesses have been making plans for almost a decade on the basis of a HS2 backbone.

High-speed transport is one of the keys to reviving investment in the industrial North-West. Instead of showing the managerial willpower to overcome problems, Sunak dealt a fatal blow to levelling-up.

We also learn that Labour’s biggest idea, a £28billion-a-year investment to turn Britain into a green energy superpower, could be watered down. 

In her first retreat, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves delayed the proposed start date until half way through the next Parliament. A further scaling back is also on the cards.

Our politicians must learn that sticking to long-term goals is the path to boosting productivity and building towards a carbon-free future.