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Cheryl Gillan says she will keep fighting HS2
DEFIANT Cheryl Gillan said she will continue to fight HS2 from the back benches after losing her cabinet post this week.
The Chesham and Amersham MP lost her role as Welsh Secretary during Tuesday's cabinet reshuffle, but during her time in office she was forbidden from speaking out against the scheme.
She admitted to being frustrated at having to toe the party line during her time in Government - but now the shackles are off she will be back to publicly campaigning against the biggest threat to hit her constituency.
She told the Bucks Free Press: "I'm persistent. I have never given up on things. My claws were temporarily sheathed but they haven't lost their sharpness."
Mrs Gillan said she couldn't publicly voice her own views on the controversial project while she was a cabinet minister - but that is now going to change.
She said: "I'm delighted now I can continue doing out in the open what I have been doing privately on HS2.
"I'm very loyal to my party but I don't agree with all the Government's policy. I have always opposed the project from day one and I'm now not bound by this code of loyalty. It's really quite liberating."
Mrs Gillan said despite being silent in public on her views, the exact opposite was true behind the scenes as she constantly made her feelings known to Prime Minister David Cameron.
She said: "He's under no illusions about my views on HS2 - I spoke to him about it as recently as Monday - and so is Justine [Greening, former Transport Secretary]."
Tuesday's reshuffle meant Patrick McLoughlin becomes the fourth minister to serve as Transport Secretary in the two years since the route of the line through the Chiltern hills was first confirmed.
Mrs Gillan said the lack of continuity in the role was "terrible" but added she has already asked Mr McLoughlin, former Chief Whip, to scrap the project altogether.
And she urged constituents to once again make their views on the scheme known to the new man, saying the battle to axe it is far from over.
She said: "We get to educate a new set of transport ministers. They should be left in no uncertain terms as to the strength of feeling.
"It's the project that has enjoyed the most response and most emotive response from my constituents, and I'm sure he will welcome hearing those views at first hand."
Constituents have criticised her for appearing to challenge for mitigation, rather than attempting to have the project halted altogether.
But she explained: "I've always said you can't presume you can stop this so you've got to get the best deal if you can't stop it."
Mrs Gillan said she has been in talks this week with the company charged with construction work through the Chilterns, and has raised with them the prospect of tunnelling under the AONB for the entire stretch.
She has also expressed an interest in sitting on the Transport Select Committee, an influential group of MPs which shapes the Government's transport policy.