I’ve not blogged about these people for quite some time for the simple reason there’s been nothing of interest to blog about. But I wanted to do a round-up and potted history as I still get asked where they went and my last blog on the subject is way out of date. So, what did happen to them?
The short answer is, in 2022 their campaign collapsed completely with the demise of the Extinction Rebellion inspired ‘HS2Rebellion’ and the last remaining protest camp. Politically, their campaign had given up the ghost several years before.
This was always going to happen. Support had been ebbing away for years as it had become clear to all but the most blinkered that pretending HS2 could be stopped when construction was well underway was a fools errand. The protest camps were always a sideshow. They were an attempt to attract publicity and raise funds but they never stood a chance of success as they were poorly supported, many were in the wrong place and the people in them were such a rag-bag of conflicting ideologies and interests. A mixture of Nimbys, part-timers who just turned up to party plus a tiny hard-core of ‘professional’ protesters who drifted from one lost cause to another. The camps also attracted their fair share of ne’er-do-wells and damaged people, hence some camps getting reputations for thievery, sexual harassment and violence. Some young idealists attracted to the cause through social media soon had their dreams shattered by the reality of life in the camps and never returned. Plus, wealthy Chiltern Nimbys and a rag-bag of anarchists and left-wing dreamers (and a few thieves) were always going to be uneasy bedfellows – as it proved. Many opponents of HS2 in the Chilterns weren’t too sad to see the back of the camps.
The kamikaze tactics of people in the camps also limited their effectiveness as once people were arrested they had bail conditions imposed which kept them away from HS2 sites. Other had injunctions taken out against them which kept them away from places like the first protest camp at Harvil Rd near London. Support also waned when the camps nearest to London were evicted as that’s where the biggest pool of weekenders and party people came from. The final camp was in rural Staffordshire, far away from the Nimby heartlands of the Chilterns and London, plus local support was lukewarm to say the least. Money began to dry up too. In the past people had donated 10s of 1000s via various crowdfunders but these became mired in controversy as no-one ever knew where the money actually went. This led to some very public spats and fallings out which I’ve documented in the past.
The final nails in the coffin were the eviction of the ‘Bluebell’ camp in Staffordshire which fell extremely quickly. Three activists retreated into a tunnel that had been dug underneath the camp and stayed their for 47 days in an attempt to attract publicity, but they received very little. No-one was really interested in three people in a hole in the ground that was so far away from the Londoncentric media. Euston Sq gardens it wasn’t!
Meanwhile, events in the High Court in Birmingham were about to hammer home the final nail…
HS2 Ltd had applied to the High Court for a route-wide injunction that would ban any further disruptive protests or trespass on HS2 land. Over the years HS2 security and bailiffs had amassed a huge amount of evidence showing the dangerous, disruptive and violent nature of the protesters and this evidence was submitted to the Judge. Ironically, evidence was also provided by the protesters themselves through some of the video recording and livestreams they’d stuck on social media in an attempt to drum up support and funds. This backfired spectacularly in court! The old adage about ‘give ’em enough rope’ couldn’t have been more apt! There are thousands and thousand of pages of court documents, which you can find here.
After months of deliberations, Mr Justice Knowles granted the route-wide injunction on the 20th September 2022.
Contrary to claims from the protesters, the injunction did not make protesting against HS2 ‘illegal’. The injunction’s very specific in its wording about what it covers, which is;
(2) PERSONS UNKNOWN ENTERING OR REMAINING WITHOUT THE CONSENT
OF THE CLAIMANTS ON, IN OR UNDER LAND ACQUIRED OR HELD BY THE
CLAIMANTS IN CONNECTION WITH THE HIGH SPEED TWO RAILWAY
SCHEME SHOWN COLOURED PINK, AND GREEN ON THE HS2 LAND PLANS
(“THE HS2 LAND”) WITH THE EFFECT OF DAMAGING AND/OR DELAYING
AND/OR HINDERING THE CLAIMANTS, THEIR AGENTS, SERVANTS,
CONTRACTORS, SUBCONTRACTORS, GROUP COMPANIES, LICENSEES,
INVITEES AND/OR EMPLOYEES
(3) PERSONS UNKNOWN OBSTRUCTING AND/OR INTERFERING WITH ACCESS
TO AND/OR EGRESS FROM THE HS2 LAND IN CONNECTION WITH THE HS2
SCHEME WITH OR WITHOUT VEHICLES, MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT,
WITH THE EFFECT OF DAMAGING AND/OR DELAYING AND/OR HINDERING
THE CLAIMANTS, THEIR AGENTS, SERVANTS, CONTRACTORS, SUBCONTRACTORS, GROUP COMPANIES, LICENSEES, INVITEES AND/OR EMPLOYEES WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE CLAIMANTS
(4) PERSONS UNKNOWN CUTTING, DAMAGING, MOVING, CLIMBING ON OR
OVER, DIGGING BENEATH OR REMOVING ANY ITEMS AFFIXED TO ANY
TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT FENCING OR GATES ON OR AT THE
PERIMETER OF THE HS2 LAND, OR DAMAGING, APPLYING ANY SUBSTANCE
TO OR INTERFERING WITH ANY LOCK OR ANY GATE AT THE PERIMETER
OF THE HS2 LAND WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE CLAIMANTS
With the injunction in force it was game over for the protesters who’ve never attempted to set up another camp, or break the terms of the injunction. To reinforce the seriousness of their position, a couple of protesters were given jail time for contempt of court. As usual the protesters tried to spin this as being jailed for protesting. It was no such thing, but you flout the authority of the courts at your peril! One of the protesters, Elliott Cuciurean (aka ‘Jellytot) remains behind bars now.
In October 2022 one of the protesters named in the injunction (James Taylor, aka ‘Jimmy Knaggs’) started to raise money for an appeal, but his application was refused on the 9th December 2022. There will be no appeal. In typically underhand fashion, the news of the refusal of leave to appeal has been kept quiet. It’s not mentioned on any of the protest groups Facebook pages. Instead, there’s still a Crowdfunder running to raise money to fund the non-existent appeal – although no-one’s been mug enough to donate for quite some time. Here’s a screenshot from today.
No update since May 2022. No news the appeal was refused but the crowdfunder’s renewed for another 30 days every time it expires. With just 10 days left that means it was last renewed Early January – long after the appeal was refused!. Sounds like a scam to me…
So, it’s game over for the protest camps and the protesters trying to interfere with HS2. Now scattered to the four winds with many of them having simply disappeared, there’s no way back for them. HS2 ‘rebellion’ exists only as a few social media accounts which occasionally recycle the odd newspaper article critical of HS2 or try and raise more money for the lad in prison. No-one’s trying to stop HS2 anymore…
The political campaign died even earlier. Originally, there had been 2 main groups opposing HS2. The High Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) based in the Chilterns and ‘StopHs2’ based in Kenilworth in Warwickshire. HS2AA gave up in 2016 after getting the Wendover tunnel extension as that was on their doorstep. StopHS2 staggered on until 2020. They were only two people, Joe Rukin in Kenilworth and Penny Gaines in err…Bournemouth! Joe was the main mouthpiece who would do the media interviews where he’d often lie through his teeth – all to no avail! He’s left behind an interesting legacy on Social Media – a trail of lies and half-truths which really haven’t aged well.
During the injunction proceedings Rukin was named as a defendant and was forced to admit that StopHS2 had given up campaigning against HS2 in 2020!
As for the supposed ‘StopHs2 North’, it doesn’t exist. There’s no such organisation. You can’t find any trace of it anywhere. Stop HS2 have even given up posting stuff on their website now. From posting stuff daily they only managed 6 stories last year, the last of which was in June 2022. There’s been nothing in 2023 and I doubt there will be.
Political pressure was the only hope of stopping HS2 but it never stood a chance as it never had any real political support in Parliament, especially in the Lords which has always been very pro HS2. When the Phase 1 HS2 bill passed 2nd reading in 2014 only 41 MPs voted against the bill. More than half of them are no longer MPs!
The Phase 2a Bill (West Midlands to Crewe) passed 2nd reading on the 30th January 2018 with another crushing majority of 295 to 12. Interestingly enough, some of the 41 MPs who voted against Phase 1 voted FOR phase 2a whilst others abstained! I blogged about it at the time here.
Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester) passed 2nd reading on the 20th June 2022. By this time those voting against had dwindled to just 6 whilst 206 MPs voted for. The 6 were the usual suspects, including Greg Smith the hardline Brexiter from Buckinghamshire and (equally Brexity) Bill Cash. In fact, a Venn diagram of MPs who’re rabid Brexit supporters but who also oppose HS2 would be an almost perfect circle. This would encompass the few former Labour MPs who opposed HS2, like Kate Hoey. Co-incidence? I think not. You can see the malign influence of the Tufton St cabal at work here. After the 2019 election when there was a new intake of MPs noises were made about reforming a Parliamentary group of MPs who opposed HS2 called the HS2 Review Group but it never came to anything.
The problem for these few MPs and the Tufton St cabal is there are no more Parliamentary votes on HS2 for quite some considerable time. Legislation to build HS2 all the way to Manchester has passed. 2nd reading is the only stage that really matters as that establishes the principle of the bill. 3rd reading in the Commons and the process in the Lords can’t change that. By the time the next Hybrid bill appears we’ll have a new Government. Barring a disaster the Tories will be out on their arses and Labour will be in with a huge majority – and Labour are committed to building HS2 in full.
So, there’s really nowhere for the remaining opponents of HS2 to turn. They’re a dead duck politically and the protesters are finished. All that’s left is a dwindling bunch of Nimbys, right-wing libertarians and faux ‘greens’ wasting their time ranting in their social media echo-chamber. No-one sees them as a threat to HS2.
Meanwhile, HS2 construction is speeding up unopposed. Many of the major structures on Phase 1 are already under construction (for example, the Chiltern tunnels are already 50% complete) and work will only ramp up more this year. Civils Work on Phase 2 a to Crewe will be starting shortly whilst the Petitioning Ctte for Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester will be sitting through 2023. It will be interesting to see how many people actually petition this Ctte as there were always so few StopHS2 ‘action’ groups on this section of the line.
I suspect this will be my final blog on the anti Hs2 campaign as it’s ceased to exist in any meaningful way. Oh, there might be some mad ones to poke fun at sometime during the year, but that’s it. It really is all over now. Most of my time now will be spent reporting on progress building HS2, not on those who so spectacularly failed to stop it!
Stop HS2 is dead. Happy New Year!