The anti HS2 protesters may have done it their way but there was one major problem. Their way was an utter failure! Late to the party, After the abject failure of groups like ‘StopHS2’ HS2Rebellion was formed in 2019 as a banner under which a rag-bag of professional protesters who were refugees from other failed campaigns could coalesce and recruit young people and locals who lived along the route of HS2 to form a grassroots activist movement. It was a project doomed from the very start because of the tensions inherent in trying to weld together people with diametrically opposed outlooks and political sympathies. Anarchists who who had the dream of ‘smashing capitalism’ (bless! Ed) and thought laws only applied to other people were never going jell with Nimbys who owned multi-million pound homes, nor with landowners and farmers who actually knew something about the environment they stewarded. Add in the fact it was an impossible aim. A tiny handful of people that never numbered more than a few hundred to try and stop the largest construction project in Europe that was spread over hundreds of miles was only going to end one way. And so it came to pass.
At the height of their campaign (2020) there were more than a dozen ‘protection’ camps littering (literally) the phase 1 route of HS2. Gradually, these were evicted or abandoned as ‘weekend warriors’ who only turned up to party lost interest never made credible troops. Here’s a list of camps HS2Rebellion openly advertised on their website in August 2021 (with my annotations in bold).
There were several others that only lasted a few days/weeks that never even made the list. Here’s the current list that’s buried away on a back page of their website today.
Another factor in the mix is the fact some of the people attracted to these protests are ‘nere-do-wells’ or damaged people who lapse into drug-taking, theft and violence. Insiders attest to the fact the atmosphere at these camps could be quite poisonous and women often felt marginalised or even at risk. Some of the young people whose idealism attracted them to the ’cause’ were soon disillusioned by the reality. The aggression shown by some protesters towards ordinary HS2 workers wasn’t what these idealists expected – or wanted, it was all meant to be peaceful and ‘fluffy’ on the protesters part but the reality was anything but. Factionlism soon broke out as those behind HS2Rebellion turned out to be control freaks who tried to take over the campaign – and control the money. This didn’t sit well with some of the earlier activists. I documented some of the spectacular fallings out in this 2019 blog – “trouble at t’stophs2 mill”
The decline of the ‘rebellion’ was swift as it became obvious that all their stunts were almost exclusively for PR purposes. None of them stopped a thing. Many weren’t even on land needed to build HS2 although that was never, ever admitted. Neither was the weapons-grade lying! As far as those leading the campaign were concerned, lying was fine as it was all about publicity. It made a mockery of the Extinction Rebellion slogan ‘tell the truth’ but that’s always been a lie anyway. As far as XR are concerned the truth is what you make up.
Admittedly, work on some sites was delayed or disrupted temporarily and millions of pounds was wasted but there was only ever going to be one winner. Their tactics were hopeless, carbon-copies of the same stunts that failed to stop the road-building programme of the 1980s. They never twigged that people stuck up trees or squatting in tunnels were sitting targets. It was simply a question of how long it would take them to be removed. It was the same with their tactic of blocking site access or sitting atop vehicles. That got them arrested, with onerous bail conditions applied that limited what they could do, further draining their pool of activists which was rapidly turning into a puddle.
The last squatter camp on Phase 1 (at Wendover) was finally evicted without any media attention in November 2021. That left one camp remaining, at Swynnerton in Staffordshire where a pitiful handful of refugees from other camps had pitched up after everyone else had scattered to the four winds. ‘Bluebell’ camp as the squatters named it was all they had left. It was painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain that by this stage in the game they were wasting their time, but those at the camp had nowhere else to go. Plus, they were still managing to get mugs to fund their lifestyle through Crowdfunding. All they had to do was keep up the pretense that they were actually doing something…
So, every few days a video would appear of a handful of them ‘blockading’ a nearby HS2 worksite. There was only one problem – it was complete bollocks as it was purely for show. They’d reached an agreement with their police liasion so that in order they could legally exercise their right to protest they could parade outside the gate for an hour or so. Any longer and they’d fall foul of the law and be arrested. It was painfully obvious they were achieving nothing because if you look back through the video’s you can see the HS2 worksite expanding and the fences growing! But, it was enough to fool the mugs on social media and keep the money flowing. ‘Job’ done the protesters would retreat to camp to waste the rest of their time drinking, smoking and digging the odd bit of tunnel. Interestingly enough, the majority of their crowdfunding doesn’t come from individual ‘widow’s mites’ but large, regular and anonymous donations of £500 at a time. Here’s a screenshot.
Of course, there were a couple of very middle-class kids in the Euston tunnel who’s parent is a millionaire. I wonder…Looking through all the various Crowdfunders the protesters have organised (and there’s loads) there is a pattern of large anonymous donations. So much for a grassroots campaign. I sometimes wonder just how many 100s of 1000s of pounds have been raised and wasted on this futile campaign. No accounts have ever been held and none have ever been published. It’s been a financial black-hole. No-one knows where all the kit they’ve bought (solar panels, climbing gear, vehicles etc) has gone, other than most of it has ‘disappeared’ – along with some the personal and private property of a few of the camps inhabitants.
The lack of a genuine ‘grassroots’ has always been the anti HS2 campaigns weakness. Considering the fact millions of people live in the constituencies HS2 passes through the number of folks protesting has always been ridiculous in comparison. Even celebrities like Chris Packham with his dual vanity projects (a petition and a legal case, both of which failed) plus his weapons grade dishonesty couldn’t revitalise the campaign.
Another sign of their decline is that no-one seems to be directing HS2Rebellion anymore. The people who set it up appear to have either deserted it or taken a very back seat. Looking at the stuff on their social media feeds and accounts it looks like a bunch of clueless kids have been given the keys and allowed to post what they want – hence them endorsing those libertarian, climate-change denialists and smokescreen for the oil lobby – the Cato Institute! Link here.
The people behind HS2Rebellion seem to be Extinction Rebellion acolytes Larch Maxey and Samantha Smithson (aka ‘Swan’) plus a chap called Micheal Truesdale (aka ‘Miami’) who was involved in a lot of the spats over control of the money and protest camps. All are keeping a very low profile. Maxey and Smith have court cases pending due to various daft stunts whilst Truesdale has disappeared, having deleted his Facebook account. Most of the usual suspects were amongst the 63 (with aliases) named in this recent injunction for the real name of ‘Bluebell’ Woods (Cash’s Pit). The injunction’s interesting for several reasons. It exposes just how few people formed the hardcore of the protest, how many have since deserted the campaign, and also which ones are left – and their real names. I mean, seriously – a campaign where there’s less than 100 hard-core supporters to be found and named after four years of protests? That’s pathetic.
In February the ‘Bluebell’ camp was served with an eviction notice which expired on March 24th. There was a lot of bluster from some of the residents about how they were going to challenge this but they’ve gone very quiet after the hearing (let me guess, it failed. Ed). Now the stage is set for the eviction as all the players are in place for the showdown which will obviously take place in the next few days or weeks. The result is in no doubt. What will be interesting is to see how many people are left in the camp when the eviction takes place as more of the long term regulars who ended up at ‘Bluebell’ have already given up and moved on. Here’s two examples from recent weeks.
Meanwhile, despite these desertions, the bluster from the remaining occupants goes on!
On the 5th April there’s a hearing in the High Court in Birmingham where HS2 Ltd are applying for a route-wide injunction to prevent any more of these incursions onto HS2 land and prevent unlawful activity such as blocking access to HS2 worksites. You can find all the court papers here. There’s a lot of them but some make interesting reading as they document protests going back to 2017 and expose the protesters claims of being ‘peaceful’ for the lies they are. If the injunction’s granted (and they have been in the past) expect the eviction of ‘Bluebell’ to happen very soon afterwards.
No doubt I’ll be blogging about the eviction as and when it happens as this is the final chapter in this useless and misguided campaign. It’s possible another pointless camp may spring up somewhere in the future but it’s patently obvious that what passed for a national campaign to stop HS2 died a death years ago.
Now the focus moves to Parliament as the consultation period on the Phase 2b route from Crewe to Manchester closes on March 31st. Soon, the Hybris Bill for the route will get its 2nd reading in Parliament. It will pass and the only question is how big the majority will be. There’s no credible political opposition to HS2, but then there’s no credible ‘grassroots’ campaign either. The mantra I’ve been repeating for years is self-evident. ‘Stop Hs2’ is dead….
I’ve a favour to ask…
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I note Cuciurean will be convicted again shortly as his acquittal was appealed and that has apparently won in a judgement today. – https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2022/736.html
Paul Bigland said:
Indeed. I suspect a few people are going to be worried by that turn of events…