At midnight, yet another StopHs2 petition turned into the inevitable pumpkin. After a frantic last minute ‘surge’ (well what passes for one in their eyes) it staggered over the finish line with 24,075 signatures, having gained less than 80 in the final 24 hours! The 2018 one managed 28,938. To say this is pathetic is an understatement, especially when you consider this is a national figure. The UK’s current population size is reckoned by the UN to be 67.53 million (as there’s been no UK census since 2011), which rather puts this figure into perspective, it’s just 0.03%. So much for HS2 being a ‘national’ issue! I’ll crunch the numbers here as they make interesting reading when you compare them to the results of the last time Joe Rukin tried one of these petitions back in 2017. I’ll analyse them in detail shortly, but first, let’s look at what conclusions we can draw.
StopHs2 really is just a ‘Nimby’ campaign
Yes, I know they’ve spent years denying this, pretending there’s widespread national opposition to HS2, but these petitions provide the statistics to prove that’s simply not the case. It’s why I love it when Rukin starts yet another one as they provide empirical evidence, not just rumour. These petitions log the number of signatures by Parliamentary constituency, giving a running total and percentage. Here’s the map for England. Those constituencies with the most signatures appear in a darker colour. Now, looking at that map, have a wild guess where Phase 1 of HS2 runs?
Sure, there’s signatures from other parts of the UK, after all, various Green groups and the Brexit party have publicised it amongst their supporters, but they’re statistically insignificant. The fact 4 people in Banff & Buchan in Scotland or 2 in West Tyrone in Northern Ireland have signed is neither here nor there, because 49.64% of all the petition signatures have come from just 9.6% of the UK’s 650 constituencies, the 63 that HS2 just happens to pass through…
Their ‘Grassroots’ campaign is dying
Their 2017 petition managed 28,398 signatures, this one’s only managed 24,075. As you’ll see from the numbers from the different phases, whilst the phase 1 signatures have decreased, the ones for phase 2a and the two phase 2b legs have collapsed. In some cases dramatically.
In reality, this petition is a last gasp from the Chilterns and other areas on phase 1 where minds have been focussed by the fact that workers and machinery are already on the ground, preparing for construction.
Another reason for the collapse is that – because this is essentially a ‘Nimby’ campaign, many of its supporters have been bought out and moved away in the past few years. HS2’s no longer an issue for them. This was always going to happen, but it’s accelerated as the number of homes purchased has increased. One only has to look around Euston where the new homes built to house the people displaced by Hs2 works are now occupied and the old ones are being demolished. This is reflected in the number of signatures to the petition.
Once Phase 1 construction is fully underway, the StopHs2 campaign will fracture and what’s left of its national organisation will collapse
In many ways, this has already happened. Of the three ‘national’ groups, two have already collapsed. AGAHST (Action Groups Against HS2) went to the wall in 2015 and the HS2 ‘Action Alliance’ gave up in 2016. Both were Chiltern based. That leaves ‘StopHs2’ which is a bit of a joke to be honest. It’s Campaign Manager (and I use that term loosely) Joe Rukin runs it from his flat in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, whilst its Chair (of what? Ed) Penny Gaines now lives in Bournemouth! It has little relevance away from Phase1 other than to provide a few campaign materials and Joe’s occasional ‘rent a quotes’ to the national media. In the real world, they never had any involvement in the Phase 2a petitioning process, nor will they have in the phase 2b process when that finally gets off the ground. As much of their funding comes from Phase 1 Nimbys, we can expect that to dry up too. Of course, someone might be foolish enough to offer Joe Rukin a proper job, but he’s been looking for years, and his CV isn’t exactly scintillating. Meanwhile, many local ‘action’ groups went to the wall years ago, leaving Facebook and Twitter littered with their remains like an old battlefield.
They still have no political support
10 years on, HS2 still commands enormous cross-party political support. In fact, this has grown, as can be seen the way Northern and Midlands leaders have become an increasingly loud voice in campaigns to ensure that HS2 is built in its entirety. Added to their are the powerful voices of business leaders up and down the country.
In contrast, what do StopHs2 have? A handful of MPs, mostly the same old faces like Cheryl Gillan, the Green Party and now The Brexit party, who are likely to emulate the ‘success’ of their leader’s last chariot for his ego – UKIP – who never managed to get a single MP – even by standing in the Chilterns…
Remember, all these people, along with ‘celebrity’ environmentalist Chris Packham encouraged people to sign this petition. Packham alone has 356,000 Twitter followers, the Green Party 284,000 and the Brexit party 202,000 – yet they were all spectacularly unsuccessful in getting people to sign the petition. This is why, despite all the bluster you’re seeing from some Nimbys in the run up to the general election, HS2 simply isn’t an election issue.
Right, let’s crunch some numbers!
These are comparisons of the signatures between yesterday and when the last petition closed after 6 months in March 2018. First up – phase 1. I’ve highlighted the increases on 2018.
The interesting thing here is that many of the increases are from such a low base number they’re insignificant, especially when you consider what percentage of constituents they are! Their ‘best’ result is in Chesham and Amersham, where long-standing opponent of HS2, Dame Cheryl Gillan MP holds sway. Even there they can’t get beyond 1.9% – and these are meant to be their heartlands! Kenilworth & Southam is their next best number where they have 1.6%, but as this is where Joe Rukin is that’s amazingly poor. Buckingham gets 1.5%, after that the numbers really start to drop.
2,570.105 live in the 23 constituencies phase 1 traverses. Just 0.36% of them have signed the petition – and these constituencies are meant to be the hot-bed of the Stophs2 campaign! Meridian’s the only interesting one, where their number have increased by 256%, but that’s still only 250 signatures and the total’s just 0.32% of all constituents!
Now for the phase 2 routes. First up is the leg to Manchester. This contains 18 constituencies and includes phase 2a to Crewe.
Their numbers here have plummeted by over 27%, in one notable case (Tatton) they’ve dropped by half! Tatton is one of the few places on the Manchester leg where there’s ever been an active ‘action’ group (Mid Cheshire) but even here they’re obviously struggling! Their ‘best’ result here is in Tatton, with a miserly 0.3%. It’s the only constituency off phase 1 that’s highlighted on the map in a darker colour.
Out of all 1,811.397 constituents, a measly 0.08% have signed the petition, down from 0.12% in 2018. Just like the other phases of HS2, it’s worth noting that what these figures show is that the StopHS2 ‘campaign’ get the vast majority of it’s tiny support from rural areas and has virtually bugger-all influence in the cities. There’s never been a single ‘action’ group in urban Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester.
Next up, the 18 constituencies on the phase 2 leg to Leeds, which produces some very interesting results…
The numbers signing have collapsed from 4793 in 2018 to just 1246 now. That’s a huge drop of 74%! Not a single constituency has registered a raise. Look at Rother Valley, down from 1650 to just 121, a drop of 92.6%! Hemsworth’s dropped by 73% and Bolsover by 69.1% whilst NW Leics is down 69.89%.
The route to Leeds was always an interesting one as the anti Hs2 campaign on that leg was always fractious and also full of bluster. They spent a lot of time fighting amongst themselves as some wanted Hs2 cancelling whilst others actually wanted Hs2 but fought against the final route selection. It also suffered from a fair few personalities who could best be described with the old expression, “all mouth and no trousers”! How quickly the ‘action’ groups have collapsed on the Leeds leg has surprised even me, but they’d sown the seeds of their own destruction right from the start.
So, what’s next for the stophs2 ‘campign’? Limbo. Now that a general election’s been called the Oakervee review is almost certainly going to be put on ice until afterwards. Of course, they could always resurrect their daft ‘no votes for you with HS2’ Twitter hashtag, but they’re firing blanks. They’re no political threat to anyone and the electorate has rather more pressing matters to vote on than building a new railway!
For reference, you can find a previous blog looking at the long failure of StopHs2 petitions here. There’s also this blog which crunched the numbers in their 2017-18 petition.
Ken Sherwood said:
You can only admire their refusal to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and give up
Paul Bigland said:
With the likes of Rukin it’s desperation as he’s no-where else to go as no-one else will employ him. With the others, the number still trying to oppose HS2 continues to dwindle. As soon as full construction of Phase 1 starts, watch many of the last few give up…
Where was he when they were protesting against HS1, a project with a weaker case and nowhere near as many passengers as HS2 will serve. Tells you all you need to know……
I find it interesting that North Warwickshire doesn’t appear on any of these tables.
I used to live in the constituency (up to 2014), and our Conservative MP, Dan Byles, was heavily anti-HS2. He spent an inordinate amount of time with the voters of Water Orton, which is in the top left-hand corner of the constituency and adjoins the main HS2 phase 1/phase 2a junction site (although that actually is just outside the constituency).
Trouble was, he hardly spent much time with the rest of the constituency. What was worse, the time he didn’t spend on HS2 he mainly spent on promoting fracking. One suspects that Conservative Central Office never expected him to win the seat (his Labour predecessor, Mike O’Brien, was a reasonably local lad who unseated Francis Maude in 1992 and had a solid Ministerial career) and it was only the early intervention of UKIP that caused O’Brien to lose the seat and Byles to win it in 2005 with a majority of something like 57. For such a marginal seat, a new MP spending all his time on an issue marginal to most of the constituency and a private interest unpopular with many would be a recipe for disaster; Dan Byles avoided this by announcing well before the 2010 election that he wouldn’t stand again.
Multiply this effect up and down the country – especially if CCO are equally hands-off with other back-bencher backwoodsmen (and women), and you can see another possible factor leading to the collapse of the anti-HS2 ranks.
Paul Bigland said:
The impression I get it that many Tory MPs who oppose HS2 aren’t doing it because they fear the voters. It’s because of the landowners who’re members of their local party association.
You’ve just made it clear to me. One of the eminences grises in the North Warwickshire Conservative Association, I now recollect a mole telling me, was Lord Aylesford, whose estate at Packington is affected by HS2. Birmingham Interchange station is planned to be built on his land; the fact that a major landfill tip also occupies one corner of that parcel of land is neither here nor there, though I suspect he gets a nice rake-off from the operation. The tip is now a local landmark, as it long ago stopped being land “fill” as such and became a major feature, resembling a giant tumulus a couple of hundred feet high.
And the pro HS2 petition numbers?
Paul Bigland said:
What? Are you for real? Where have you been hiding for the past 10 years? HS2 doesn’t need petitions! It’s government policy, the phase 1 bill has passed into law and construction’s started and the phase 2a bill flew through 2nd reading with a massive majority! Plus, HS2 has massive cross-party support on both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, not to mention widespread political support across the Midlands and the North!
The time for silly petitions has long gone. You people don’t even seem to understand the purpose of petitions on the Government’s website in the first place. It’s a petition about a debate, not a referendum, and the decision to build HS2 phase 1 was passed into law years ago. The fact a comment like this is the best you have to offer merely shows one thing. Why your ‘campaign’ was so useless.
Jack Walters said:
HS2 definitely is not solely an illustration of ‘nimbyism’. Some people who live along the track-line will, of course, be annoyed. However, the crux of why people don’t like it is because of the astronomical cost and the lack of economic benefit it will deliver.
Paul Bigland said:
On the contrary. Every daft ‘StopHs2’ petition has proved that the vast majority of people signing it are actually Nimbys.
Jack Walters said:
I have to disagree. A petition does not represent the total opposition to HS2. It is a tiny proportion of it.
Jonathan Rackowe said:
Personally, I think HS2 is a terrible waste of taxpayers funds. There are more important infrastructure projects such as hospitals, care homes and climate change technology that the money should be spent on. Paul, your name-calling of Nimbyism only shows that you aren’t capable of seeing other people’s point of view.
Paul Bigland said:
And? The fact you obviously neither know or understand why we’re building HS2 in the first place is meant to influence anybody how? You don’t even know it’s not being paid for from “taxpayers funds” but by Government borrowing which will be repaid from the tax receipts HS2 will generate. Binary thinking won’t stop the project either. We CAN afford more than one thing you know! The UK has woefully under invested in infrastructure since the war. The OECD recommends that baseline infra investment is 5.5% of GDP annually for an economy with aspirations to growth. We have only spent this amount TWICE since WW2. As for climate change, without HS2 we simply don’t have the rail capacity for the future to get people & freight off roads and cut transport Co2 emissions to tackle climate change. Stopping HS2 isn’t ‘green’, it’s exactly the opposite. Regarding ‘Nimbys’ – it happens to be true. Every StopHs2 petition has proved that the majority of people who sign them live on the HS2 route (and the majority of them in the Chilterns). It may be an inconvenient fact for some, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fact.
Paul Bigland said:
It’s not one petition. It’s what several over many years have taught us – and the result is the same each time. Even though the petition’s have been pushed by the likes of various national political or pressure groups like UKIP, the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, the Brexit party and others. Yet each time the empirical evidence is exactly the same. It doesn’t matter what you agree or disagree with. The evidence remains.