Being a pain in the arse works sometimes.
So, hats’ off to Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart, who got George Osborne to set aside an extra £150m so that up to six million people living in mobile not-spots might actually get a signal.
Stewart organised a Commons debate, possibly still the best-supported debate ever, to get Ofcom to increase its mobile coverage target, and with it, high speed 4G coverage, from 95% to 99%. The motion passed unanimously.
But it came at a cost. Shortly after the debate Stewart went public with tales of being told in dark corridors that uppity first-time MPs needed to shut up and watch the big boys at work.
Obviously, it took more than “a few words to the wise” to intimidate a man who first walked 6,000 miles in two years through Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, and later ran an Iraqi province during the height of the military adventure there.
As I recall, Stewart worked out that it would cost an extra £210m to build the masts to provide 99% coverage, so Osborne has not been over-generous to Stewart. But it is proof of Stewart’s resilience and his ability to work behind the scenes as well as in front.
While this is a coup for Stewart, it’s too soon to call it victory in the battle to get the UK a globally competitive broadband infrastructure, if today’s BT broadband outage, which affected large parts of the UK for hours, is any sign.