It might seem churlish to keep on criticising Labour for a lack of policies following a party conference which saw them announce a range of eye-catching measures – freezing fuel bills being merely the top of the list – but there are still some questions that need answering.
They include Labour’s policy on High Speed Two, alternatively known as HS2 or the North South Line.
That “North South” label was Labour’s idea – designed to move the focus away from speed and on to capacity.
Labour feared that the Government had allowed the argument in favour of high speed rail to focus entirely on how fast the trains would go, when it should have been about capacity and the fact that the West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line increasingly can’t cope with demand (which means you need a new rail line – and if you’re going to build a new rail line, it may as well be fast).
And Labour also wanted to focus attention on the North and the fact that the line would bring economic benefits to the North of England (although Birmingham, in the Midlands, will also benefit enormously).
Government ministers, who are keen to build the new line but realise they have done a poor job of putting forward the arguments, have taken Labour’s advice on board.
When David Cameron was asked by regional newspapers before the party conference whether he was still determined to build HS2, he replied that yes, he was indeed committed to building the North South rail line.
So Labour was not only determined to building the thing, if it formed a Government, but even gave the Tories some free PR advice.
But the Labour team I’m talking about involved Maria Eagle, the former Shadow Transport Secretary, and her advisors – and they’ve gone.
Labour leader Ed Miliband moved Maria Eagle to Environment in a job swop with Mary Creagh, the former Shadow Environment Secretary, in his reshuffle.
Ms Eagle had always said that there was a limit to how far the cost of HS2 could rise.
In August, she said: “I am not willing to see this project start draining money from other vital rail projects – it’s got to be delivered within the current budget.
“Nobody who is delivering it should be under any illusions that I will allow it to go up and up. That would put our commitment to it at risk.
“It shouldn’t be going up above that £50 billion cap.”
But Labour also made it clear that it believed the project would indeed come in below that £50 billion cap, which, after all, includes £16 billion in contingency funding (£14.4 billion in the budget for the line, £1.7 billion in the budget for rolling stock).
The aim was to show that Labour would manage the project better than the Tories and probably build it cheaper – but not to cast doubt on Labour’s commitment to building it.
This all changed when Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, delivered his speech to the Labour conference.
For the first time, there was a suggestion that Labour might not build the line even if it came in below the projected cost.
He told delegates: “The question is not just whether a new high speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.”
Officials confirmed that this meant other options for expanding capacity on the rail network would be reconsidered.
And Mr Balls made his views clear at a fringe event following his speech, pointing out: “Every billion pound we spend on HS2 is a billion pounds we won’t spend on roads or cross-country train links or building new homes or new schools or hospitals.”
Ms Eagle attempted to steer the party back towards support for HS2 the next day, telling delegates “we support High Speed Two”.
But now she’s gone.
And what does Ms Creagh say? In her first day in the Shadow Transport job, she issued this statement: “Labour supports the idea of a new North-South rail link, but under this Government HS2 has been totally mismanaged and the costs have shot up to £50 billion.
“David Cameron and George Osborne have made clear they will go full steam ahead with this project whatever the cost. Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. There will be no blank cheque for this project or for any project, because we need to ensure it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.”
This “no blank cheque” line sounds reasonable but it’s meaningless. There’s no “blank cheque” for anything – such as the NHS, for example. Yet we know Labour would continue to operate a National Health Service if it wins the next election.
The key point though is that she is echoing Mr Balls’ line that “we need to ensure it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country”.
In other words, it’s no longer enough simply to be sure that the project comes in at under £50 billion. Even if it can be completed within budget, Labour is, it seems, not yet convinced that HS2 is the best way to spend that amount of money.
Now does this mean that Labour has turned against HS2? Most political journalists at Westminster believe it does, but the truth is that we don’t really know.
Supporters of the project tend to insist Labour is still on board and merely making understandable noises about keeping costs down, while opponents insist Labour has turned against the scheme.
This is understandable, as both sides realise that the project is likely to collapse if the political consensus vanishes.
In fact, David Cameron seems to feel the same way. While he persistently highlights HS2 as a signal of Tory determination to back the North and Midlands, he also declines to attack Labour for going wobbly despite being presented with an open goal if he wanted it.
The obvious explanation is that the Prime Minister hopes to keep his opponents on board and keep the consensus alive.
But is it too late for that? Is Labour planning to abandon support for HS2 once and for all?
Like Kremlinologists struggling to understand the latest signals coming out of Moscow, we can only guess. Or, Labour could simply come out and tell us plainly what its policy is.