West Midlands mayor Andy Street said he came “close” to resigning from his role after “very robust” conversations with the Prime Minister about HS2 in the last 36 hours.
Addressing journalists at Millennium Point in Birmingham, which overlooks the construction site where the HS2 Curzon Street station will stand, Mr Street said he was “confronted” with “out of the blue” plans from the Government to curtail the line to Manchester two weeks ago.
The mayor, who has been a Conservative Party member for 42 years, was adamant he did not threaten to resign from his role or the party if the line was not continued to Manchester, saying it was simply a question he had been asked by national news journalists.
When asked why he had decided to stay in his role, Mr Street said: “The Prime Minister made it very clear to me today that he wanted to work with me on finding the solutions here.
“It was a robust conversation between him and me over the last couple of days, but I think there’s something good in that and I’m quite proud of that, because sometimes politicians don’t have it out robustly and I think we should.
“You are able to move on after that with professionalism and there is no animosity left at all.
“I was elected to do the best for this region, not to serve my party. I have stuck up for it and, frankly, I can do much more by working with the Government than by walking away.
“I know it would be a short-term sugar rush but actually it would be wrong. People expect me to continue working with them across lots of things, not just rail.”
Mr Street said the initial proposals from the Prime Minister would have seen HS2 go from Old Oak Common to Curzon Street, but after “ferocious” lobbying, that has been extended from Euston to Handsacre.
He said: “That did come out of the blue. What we have now seen announced today is significantly better. It is a much better outcome and I’m pleased that our pressure has at least secured that change in the last two weeks.
“The line is not going to be constructed from Handsacre to Manchester. I hope people will say I did my very best to try and secure that, but we didn’t prevail.”
When asked how close he came to handing in his resignation during the discussions about the future of the project with the Prime Minister, Mr Street said: “I was close, because I wasn’t expecting when I arrived in Manchester on Monday that the conference would be dominated by HS2.
“I genuinely didn’t expect it. But in the last 36 hours, when it became very much the subject on everyone’s lips, I had to think through what I have now explained to you.
“I needed to hear from the Prime Minister what he decided and what he said about how we can work together in the future.
“I’m not an MP, I’m not whipped by the party, so when I don’t agree with something I will say it. Maybe it is easier for mayors to say it.
“I never threatened to resign because I don’t believe that is the right way to negotiate.
“I believe [the Prime Minister] has had more personal time with me on this than any other person who has been putting the case forward for HS2.
“We have had a number of meetings and they have all been constructive and cordial.
“I do feel like I have been in very tough negotiations. I don’t worry about having done that, it is what I’m supposed to do for what I believe in.
“I genuinely think in a mature relationship you should be able to do this without threats played out in the media. I can’t say it has been pleasant but it has left me feeling in an okay place.”