Down to his electric green and black socks, Lord Adonis’ speech to the ITT Conference was a victory for style over substance.
The last Labour transport minister spoke impressively and confidently without notes or slides and appeared enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his former brief.
He prided himself on cancelling his ministerial car in favour of public transport. He told how he had travelled the length and breadth of the land by rail, road and air. In terms which chimed with his listeners he roundly condemned the overcrowded and underserviced trains, congested roads and inefficient airports.
He criticised other ministers for being out of touch and too keen to move on quickly to ever properly master their brief. This was stirring stuff for a jaded last-day audience. But hang on – should we not expect a transport minister to sample the transport system?
And there was no sign of any humility from the minister during the ash cloud crisis – the one which, lest we forget, grounded all aircraft for a week then sent them back in the air when nothing had changed.
In his brief reference to this momentous event, Adonis declared himself ‘surprised’ at the time to discover the importance of the travel industry in such a crisis. It seemed a little over candid to admit to the industry’s finest that he only found out about them by chance.
So what did Lord Adonis actually achieve as transport minister? Well, not much apparently. He held his post for less than a year before us pesky voters sent him and his team packing before he could make a lasting impression.
So why was he at the conference? Apparently to tell us what he would like to have done – major projects like expand Heathrow and bring high-speed rail to the north.
An engaging presenter is always popular and most of the ITT audience clearly embraced Lord Adonis. So maybe I was the only jaded listener there but for me his lordship generated enough warm transparent stuff to float a hot-air balloon.