Eamonn Holmes in furious clash with minister as HS2 row erupts: 'They think you're stupid!'

Eamonn Holmes

Eamonn Holmes clashed with Rachel Maclean over HS2

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 25/09/2023

- 09:09

Minister for housing, Rachel Maclean, joined Eamonn and Isabel on Monday's Breakfast

The reports of a potential axing of the northern leg of HS2 have hit headlines over the past weekend, with many public figures criticising any proposals of that ilk.

Eamonn Holmes and Isabel Webster welcomed Rachel Maclean onto their GB News show to discuss the prospect of ditching such a significant part of the plans.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said soaring costs of HS2 should result in a review to its plans while the likes of former chancellor George Osborne have likened the prospect of abandoning the northern leg of the line as a "gross act of vandalism".

Maclean kicked off the HS2 discussion by explaining that "no decisions" have been made on the future of HS2 yet.

She lauded the government's approach as she told Webster and Holmes: "And I think more broadly, you can see this government's commitment to connectivity and transport across the whole country.

"We've put £33 billion into levelling up the north since this government has been in office and we will continue to look at these projects that are going to boost that connectivity and economic growth all over the whole of the United Kingdom."

Holmes cut in to focus specifically on the £12 million being used as part of a separate railway project that the government is trying to shift into the spotlight rather than the potential HS2 rejig.

He blasted: "Minister, I think that's very nice, all these little cottage projects that you're levelling up with, but £12 million you're talking about here, catch yourself on.

WATCH HERE: Eamonn in HS2 row

"You must be embarrassed, really, coming on talking about HS2 possibly being scrapped and you're coming out with £12 million which would buy you a house in London basically."

"I think that's the wrong way of looking at it," Maclean argued but a riled-up Holmes hit back: "No, I think it's the wrong way of you looking at it.

"I think people like you say we do levelling up and then you come out and you say we've got £12 million to restore a little bridge in a museum.

"All of which is lovely and if it was my local council doing it, I would think that is absolutely tremendous. But you can't come out and say this is major government policy or this in any way reeks of levelling up.

"You're depriving Manchester, you're depriving Liverpool, you're depriving Leeds of being connected to the capital."

Maclean answered back: "This is one project which comes on the back of billions of pounds of funding, levelling up funding which has gone to the whole of the United Kingdom since this government has been in office.

"We've poured unprecedented amounts of money into local councils including Manchester, Birmingham with devolution partnerships and leveling up partnerships, investment zones, free ports, towns fund and £16.9 million just going to my area of Redditch alone.

"So I strongly refute what you're saying. Just because this is a small fund right now, that doesn't mean that doesn't represent transformational funding for that particular community group and some of them are absolutely delighted.

"The railway bridge project has said this has made a massive difference for their community in Keighley."

But Holmes was unwavering in his criticism as he reiterated: "I do think it's a bit embarrassing using £12 million as a defence of scrapping HS2.

"But listen not for you and me to debate this, people who are watching and listening, I think they should come in and tell us if they're that there is no levelled up or not."

Rachel Maclean

Rachel Maclean spoke to Eamonn and Isabel from Westminster


Webster then weighed in to try and ask Maclean if she'd be in favour of axing part of HS2, something the minister continued to dodge for the rest of the interview.

After saying farewell, Holmes explained: "Rachel talks about unprecedented levels of funding, that's because they didn't fund anything before that, that's why it's unprecedented.

"So when you're levelling up, what are you levelling up against? You're pushing against an open door.

"Everything is eye-watering expensive... We can't afford teachers, we can't afford to fix the schools, we can't afford to pay the doctors what they want, we could go on and on and on.

"I would love to be in government and say, 'That c**p, get rid of that'... Let's pay for the important things and the things that are making a difference in people's lives.

"Do you know what? They all think you're stupid," Holmes continued. "They think you're stupid and they think everybody will be palmed off with this and I ask you do you feel they're doing lots?

"Do you feel levelled up? Where's all the money going? Down what drain is the money going? Let us know."

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