On their website, the High Speed 2 Action Alliance make the claim that ‘There are over 172,000 households located within 1km of Phase 1 of HS2, and at least the same again for Phase 2 – meaning over half a million people impacted by these proposals’. Half a million – wow! – that’s a lot of angry people then, surely? They must be queuing up to protest about Hs2. I mean – if we add all those folks supposedly opposed to Hs2 for ideological or financial reasons, that must be over a million, yes?
Not a chance!
The truth is that, for all the various claims made by anti Hs2 supporters, there’s very little real opposition on the ground. I’ve illustrated this before in a previous blog where I looked at the death of their ‘action group’ network. https://paulbigland.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/the-anti-hs2-campaign-dying-by-degrees-pt1/
In this one I’m exploring their daft claims of mass support further.
One would think that with all these stout yeoman folk of England up in arms it would be easy to get huge groups of them together in protest. That’s certainly the impression the anti Hs2 mob try to give, aided & abetted by sections of the media who’re too lazy to fact check or who support them.
But where are these folks in reality? As they can’t be found in mass demonstrations or packed meeting halls up & down the land, perhaps social media will give a clue? Actually, it does, but it’s not a revelation anti Hs2 campaigners will like. Nowadays, social media is one of the easiest ways for those interested in a campaign to engage & show their support so you might be forgiven in thinking that Facebook & Twitter must be teeming with people outraged by Hs2. The problem is, the anti’s numbers don’t stack up here either. Don’t forget that not everyone following an anti group will be supporting their aims. Many folk will be doing it just to see what they’re up to. Their real support will be lower than the numbers I’m quoting (of course, this applies to pro Hs2 groups too).
Let’s start with the Twitter followers of the main anti Hs2 groups:
Hs2 Action Alliance (@): 3,199 followers
StopHs2 (@): 4,112
I’ve also included both of StopHs2’s leaders.
Joe Rukin (@joerukin): 1,857
Penny Gaines (@penny_gaines): 399
51M (@51M_Hs2project): 610
The umbrella group Action Groups Against Hs2 (AGAHST) don’t have a Twitter account but they do have a supposed ‘Campaign Director’, Deanne DuKhan (@DuKhanD) who has a massive following of err, 654….
Still, surely they can do better over on Facebook can’t they? Wrong again. In 2011 it was estimated that over 30 million UK citizens had a Facebook profile, that’s double the number of UK Twitter accounts. And the scores on the anti Hs2 campaign’s doors?…
It’s worth noting that 51M’s FB account hasn’t been updated since the 1st June 2011.
AGAHST haven’t even bothered with Facebook but their derelict website (where they’re still plugging an epetition that closed in August 2012*) can be found here: http://www.betterthanhs2.org/who-we-are/
Now, what was that tosh about a ‘relentless’ & ‘growing’ campaign again? Whichever way you look at it, the one thing you can’t find is any real majority support for a campaign against Hs2 – anywhere – except in the imaginations of the dwindling number still opposing the project.
*Incidentally, that epetition got a grand total of 26,262 signatures.
UPDATE (10th March 2015)
Oh dear! At today’s Hs2 Committee hearing, Denham Against Hs2 Chairman Frank Partridge let the cat out of the bag about the number of Hs2 ‘Action’ groups. The likes of Hs2aa are still pretending there are over 90. Frank admitted to the Committee that the real number is ’40 to 50′ – around half the numbers claimed! More proof (if it were needed) that the campaign’s been exaggerating the size of its activist base.