Yet again social media has rather blown up in the faces of those opposed to HS2. This time because of an unguarded comment by one of their own. You may remember they’ve been desperate to talk up the opposition to HS2 on the ground by pretending there’s some sort of groundswell of opposition that’s seen protest camps spring up all over the phase 1 route of HS2. Of course (as usual) the truth is rather different. Students of history may remember the way Allied forces in World War 2 used inflatable models of tanks and aircraft to fool enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Stop Hs2 seemed to be trying the same stunt at Harvil Rd by setting up tents, hoping that people might then assume there were more protesters than there really were. When the Bailiffs arrived to evict the camp they counted over two dozen tents and structures. There was only one problem (for the protestors at least). Sod-all were occupied. How do we know? Firstly, because all the video’s released of the evictions by the protesters show hardly any protestors present. Then this slipped out on Facebook today.
“only seven people were on site”…
Not exactly what you’d call much of a protest, is it? Just seven people, and two of them are the same old names – Mark Kier and Sarah Green. That leaves just five others holding the ‘fort’ (and I use that term loosely) as those two are often away playing silly buggers at stunts/court appearances around London, or when Kier was meant to be election campaigning in Uxbridge!
Considering that Harvil Rd is a stones throw from London, this is the best they can do? Half a dozen people and a few ‘weekend warriors’? Yet over 2.5 million people live in the constituencies Phase 1 of HS2 passes through.
Whichever way you cut it, it’s clear these protests are not going to stop HS2 in the slightest. They’re more like flea-bites, minor irritations that are soon dealt with. Many of them, like Chris Packham’s middle-class stroll along a muddy footpath with a few hundred people the other week, are just PR stunts, not a serious attempt to interfere in the building of HS2.
I can’t see the other four camps having any greater success as the same will happen. One day the Bailiff’s and Police will turn up without warning to take possession of the land and then it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’ for the protest.
Somehow, I don’t think anyone in the corridors of power, or at the Department of Transport in Westminster or HS2 Ltd in Birmingham are going to be losing much sleep over these protests. Apparently, this coming weekend a four day long series of protests is meant to be held at what’s left of the Harvil Rd camp in a classic example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!
Talking of protests, there’s also this one in London on January 22nd, although I can’t see this setting the world alight either. I’ll be interested to see how many people actually bother turning up.
Meanwhile, in the real world, a decision from the Government on giving HS2 the go-ahead is expected any time now. The latest round of speculation is that the Oakervee review and the go-ahead for HS2 will be announced at the same time at the beginning of February, just after the UK has formally left the EU and the clock begins ticking on the transition period. Let’s face it, the Government’s going to be desperate for some good economic news once that happens and announcing the fact we’re going ahead with HS2 would fit the bill.
Today’s been yet another day that’s seen me ensconced in the office at home trying to sort out the archives and get together a complete picture library of a clients entire train fleet. To say it’s time consuming is rather an understatement as they’ve rather a large portfolio! Still, it’s given me chance to search through the archive and spot potential gaps that will need filling in the future.
I’ve not been missing much by being stuck indoors as the weather here in the Pennines has hardly been conducive to photography. We’ve been suffering from the tail end of the gales that have been a feature of Northern and Scottish weather these past few days, but at least they’ve kept the rain away – even if the clouds have been the colour of thunder! As I normally escape to sunnier climes this time of year I’m starting to miss the warmth and sunshine. I don’t mind the odd dull day, but this is getting monotonous.
I’m hoping to make a bid for freedom for at least a few hours tomorrow as I need to get some shots that will fill a hole in the library. The railways are changing at an accelerated rate at the moment. What was current just six months ago is rapidly becoming dated and that process is likely to quicken through the year. Who knows what the railways will look like by this time next year with so many franchises in financial difficulties, despite (or even because of) the introduction of new trains.
Whilst I’ve been slogging through the archives I’ve also been keeping one eye on the debacle of the anti HS2 protest camp at Harvil Rd. It’s all over bar the moaning now as despite the histrionics and squeals of outrage about ‘illegal evictions’ from the tiny band there, it’s obvious it’s all ended with a whimper, which has set me thinking.
I’m no stranger to these events myself, having attended various demonstrations and protests since the late 1970s right up to the present day and the rallies against the Brexitshambles. I’ve a large archive of pictures on social issues that have never seen the light of day, from miners demonstrations with the likes of Arthur Scargill, the infamous poll tax riot in London in 1990 to the Iraq war demonstrations of 2003. I’ve been ‘kettled’ with demonstrators in central London and dodged missiles in Trafalgar Sq, as well as experienced curfews and general strikes in Kathmandu and India and protests for reform in Indonesia. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the ‘free festival’ circuit in the UK back in the 70s-80s, all of which make Harvil Rd look so ridiculous and so pathetic.
Which brings me back to my point. What a shambles that protest camp was. Compared to the protests about road building in the 70s-90s it was nothing more than a joke. They had 2 years to dig in and prepare for an eviction and at least put up some sort of a struggle. Instead, they gave up meek as lambs as it was clear they were woefully unprepared. It was more playing at being ‘eco-warriors’ rather than being serious about it. They spent more time swanning off to poorly attended PR stunts than actually organise a credible camp. Their reliance on and belief in social media was also part of their undoing. During the eviction Keir was busy filming it all to stick on Facebook and constantly appealing for all those armchair activists who were watching (which in truth was sod all) to ride to their rescue like the cavalry. They never turned up. Why? Because much of social media is little more than voyeurism. I’ve documented many StopHs2 events over the years and there’s one common denominator, how few bodies there are at them! It’s something they’ve never understood. Keyboard warriors and Twitter trolls and bots never turn up – because most of them don’t exist in the real world.
When I’ve had chance to do some research and scan some old pictures I’ll write a blog devoted to examining the difference between environmental protests 40 year ago and today. There’s a rich irony. 40 years ago the internet didn’t exist. The best protestors had was Xeroxed newsletters and telephone trees, yet they managed to organise on a far more impressive scale and attract national attention at some real stand-offs with the authorities. At Harvil Rd they were too busy thinking their endless tedious videos on their cosy Facebook groups or on Twitter, Instagram and suchlike actually meant something. They played to an audience of imaginary friends and basked in the fact they had so many hits or likes, as if all those voyeurs were actually contributing anything worthwhile. If they’d spent half the time they had on social media onanism they might have actually achieved something, but that’s always been a weakness of the anti HS2 campaign. Some of them genuinely think that MPs are going to be swayed by a few anonymous Twitter trolls spouting inane rubbish.
I can imagine someone getting a really interesting thesis out of this…
Anyway, enough of this for now. Hopefully tomorrow will see me back on the rails for the first time in 2020. If it does, expect a rolling blog documenting my travels and travails…
It’s now 24 hours since the Bailiffs successfully evicted the protestors from the Stop Hs2 ‘protest’ camp at Harvil Rd just outside Ruislip, West London. For those not familiar with the area or what’s happening, here’s a map.
The two circles show the extent of the work that the protestors have utterly failed to stop. The field which contained their little camp is marked with an X. Just out of the picture to the right is Ruislip, in the opposite direction is Denham Country Park.
Since the eviction the StopHs2 website and antis social media pages have been full of utter nonsense about the legality of the eviction. Their supporters have been spreading the mischievous myth that this was illegal as the protestors were protected from eviction by Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. This is an old squatters favourite as it protected them from unlawful eviction. Section 6 was enacted to stop unscrupulous landlords who (on finding one of their properties had been squatted) would get a few blokes together and turf out the squatters without resorting to the hassle of going through the time-consuming process of taking legal action in the courts. Back in the 1970s when squatting was a big thing illegal evictions were a real problem and various legal groups lobbied the Government to give legal protection to squatters to stop it happening – hence Section 6. as an aside, the 1977 CLA’s an interesting bit of legislation because of some of its other provisions. Section 52 redefined cannabis to include cannabis resin after a successful appeal due to a loophole in the 1971 MODA (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). See R v Goodchild .
When my properties (see below) were squatted you’d often find that the squatters had a printed S6 notice stuck to the front door, thinking this was some sort of magic charm that protected them from eviction. It didn’t. It merely made it illegal to evict them without due process and a court order executed with a warrant by officers of the court (Bailiffs). Of course, since the 1977 CLA, the eviction process has been speeded up considerably, but the anti HS2 protesters seem to think they’re still living back in the 1970s-80s!
I have to admit to a certain amount of interest and previous experience here. In a previous life back in the 1990s I was a Housing Officer for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets before taking on the same role at Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust when 3 estates in Bow (E London) were transferred to that organisation. Evictions were part of my job and I (along with the County Court bailiffs) carried out many over the years. One day, if I ever get the time I’ll blog about some of the stories, which whilst both funny and tragic they’re worth relating. But I digress.
Here’s the latest misinformation and spin on the Stop Hs2 website from that renowned ‘legal expert’ Joe Rukin.
There’s only one problem with this. Joe is completely clueless about the reality of the law. As I pointed out earlier, S6 only protects people from illegal eviction.
This was not an illegal eviction.
Why? Because it was carried out under the conditions of a Compulsory Purchase Order. The fact the squatters claimed they allegedly had ‘permission’ from the previous tenant is irrelevant, they didn’t have it from the new owners of the land. In yesterday’s blog I linked to an excellent explanation in plain English of CPO powers in this situation. You can find it here. But in this blog I’ll make it easier by copying it and spelling out the relevant sections. The beauty of this link is it describes enforcing a CPO in EXACTLY these circumstances.
So, let’s rebut (point by point) the StopHs2 claims.
“protestors had legal occupation of the land under the Criminal Law Act 1977”.
No. They didn’t. the 1977 CLA only provides protection from illegal eviction. It doesn’t confer any right to occupation. By purchasing the land from the previous owners under a CPO HS2 Ltd had legal rights over the land, not the protestors. All it means is that HS2 Ltd had to go through due process to remove the protestors from the land, which they did.
“today HS2 Ltd decided they could evict the entire camp under Compulsory Purchase Oder (sic) powers, despite the supposed protection of the CLA, which suggests this is an illegal eviction“.
It ‘suggests’ nothing of the sort. Rukin doesn’t understand the CLA, or the powers granted by a CPO.
“In this video, the man in charge of the eviction admits there is no eviction order, and the eviction is being conducted under a compulsory purchase order, despite the fact the land is covered by a notice of occupation under the Criminal Law Act”.
Here we go again…
Forget the CPA, we’ve already dealt with that. “there is no eviction order” because no notice is required, as the guidance explains. In fact the Bailiff went to great pains to explain his powers in detail (as the video on the StopHs2 Facebook page shows). The only problem is the likes of Sarah Green and Rukin simply weren’t listening!
The acquiring authority may apply to a justice of the peace to a warrant which will entitle them to exercise the power given in the CPO. The justice of the peace can only issue the warrant authorising the use of force if he or she is satisfied that persons are preventing or are likely to prevent entry and that it is reasonable to use force to remove them.
Once the warrant has been issued, this is the instruction to the HCEO to deliver possession of the land to the acquiring authority. No other court order is required.
The warrant confers the powers the HCEO will need to execute it, including the right to enter the land or premises and to use reasonable force. The HCEO will be wholly responsible and personally liable for the execution of the warrant.
So, the warrant having been issued, there’s no need to give advance warning of its execution and enforcement. Why? This explains.
Whilst the acquiring authority does have to give notice of the CPO and their intention to take possession (via a notice to treat or a vesting declaration), the HCEO is not obliged to give notice of the enforcement of the warrant.
However, should the circumstances indicate that it would be more appropriate to serve notice, perhaps because children are on the premises, then they can do so. In the case of protesters, particularly environmental protesters, serving notice might carry the risk of more protesters being brought onto the site.
This last sentence spells out exactly why no notice is needed or was given.
As for this nonsense about the police acting illegally by not intervening. Here’s the reality. The police have a statutory duty to assist.
The police has a statutory duty to assist the HCEO when executing either a High Court writ or a compulsory purchase order warrant – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 sec 140 (10).
Hopefully people will find this useful in dispelling the StopH2 myth-making, disinformation and spin around these evictions. I doubt it’ll have any influence on the protestors themselves, many of whom seem to live in an alternate universe to the rest of us judging by the stuff they’ve been coming out with, but this is why they’re on to a loser. Their bubble bursts when it comes into contact with the real world – especially the legal world!
Not that this stops some of StopHs2’s supporters coming out with some hilarious, paranoid old rubbish and conspiracy theories that really are away with the fairies. Take this example from the StopH2 Facebook page today.
Quite how this tinfoil-hat nonsense is meant to Stop Hs2 is a mystery. Sadly, it is a good illustration that we have a real problem in this country with people peddling rubbish and who really can’t tell fact from fiction. Here’s another absolute classic from the StopHs2 Facebook page!
Oh, the irony!
This afternoon various Facebook groups were still spreading rubbish about the legality of the eviction (and more), like this one. But notice how few people have shared it, never mind actually responded.
On that note I thought I’d conclude this blog with a picture taken at the last Facebook friends of StopHs2 annual meeting…
Earlier this morning the Court Bailiffs and police moved in to evict the oldest and largest of the StopH2 protest camps at Harvil Rd near Uxbridge. You can view the farce via a video posted on the StopHs2 website here.
It’s interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it shows how few people are actually there. Whilst there’s a rag-bag of 20 odd tents very few of them seem to be occupied. It’s like they’ve been left there by ‘weekend warriors’ just to make the camp look bigger and busier than it really is. In fact, very few protestors can be seen on camera, just the same old faces such as Mark Keir, the serially failed Green Party candidate, plus Sarah Green, the ‘star’ of various PR stunts the antis have tried to pull. One of the things I found fascinating about these videos was just how poorly prepared these camps were for the arrival of the Bailiffs. They knew they would come one day, so what the hell have they been doing these past two years? Remember the old days when protesters dug tunnels to hide in and had aerial ropeways between treehouses so they could resist for as long as possible and make life as difficult as they could for the police and bailiffs? This camp was a shambles in comparison, a few scattered tents and pallets used as walkways across the mud. It looked more like the place where people went to hang out, drink beers and smoke dope whilst recording endless boring social media video’s where they’d bluster about how they were going to stop Hs2.
In the background to the videos you can hear what the protesters have utterly failed to stop – HS2 contractors continuing to build access roads for construction of HS2.
As usual, you have people like Green trying to argue black is white with the Court Bailiff, claiming that the eviction is ‘illegal’. Unsurprisingly, the Bailiff refuses to get drawn into a pointless argument. As it’s now almost afternoon and no more videos have appeared – much less a victorious one from the protesters) it’s probably safe to assume that they’re too busy packing their bags! I’ll update this blog when I have more news.
There’s an even more telling video which stophs2 haven’t put up on their website but you can view it on their Facebook page. It’s a 22 minute long cameraphone video filmed by Mark Keir. You can find it here. In it, you can hear him describing the police and bailiffs as ‘scum’, whilst (hypocritically) being nice as pie to people’s faces. In contrast, the Court Officers are unfailingly polite and helpful, offering the maximum co-operation and concern for the protesters whilst executing their duties and the court order. There’s an even more ridiculous video from Sarah Green here where Green rants on and on about the eviction being ‘illegal’ like a broken record as a protestor is restrained and removed with police observing. I can’t help but think of the old expression “Barrack-room Lawyer” every time I hear Green spout. Meanwhile the man being removed calls everyone “scum” and “criminals” in between his theatrical screams. What Green and the others completely failed to understand (despite the Bailiff explaining it to then very patiently) was that he was enforcing the eviction under the terms of a Compulsory Purchase Order warrant and this confers the legal right to evict them and no notice or ‘eviction order’ is necessary. A good clear explanation of the law regarding CPO evictions in exactly these circumstance is here.
In his video Keir constantly calls for assistance from imaginary Facebook/social media friends, bemoaning the fact that there are so few people at the camp as Twyford Down this ain’t! One of the great weaknesses of these protests is they’ve always been tiny in comparison to the efforts of the anti road building protests of the 1980s-90s. Partly because the protesters have fallen for their own social media hype. They’ve confused Twitter trolls and keyboard warriors with genuine support, then are incredulous when these ‘people’ fail to materialise in real life! There’s something else that’s telling. I’ve always said that social media is a double-edged sword. It can expose your weaknesses or highlight your strengths. As always with the anti HS2 campaign, it’s the former, not the latter. Look how few views or comments any of these videos posted to social media have!
Is this the end for the Harvil Rd protest? Probably. I doubt there’s anywhere else left for them to set up camp nearby without them rapidly being evicted. No doubt some of them may drift off to another of the handful of poorly supported camps on the route, but the end result will be the same. What have they stopped? Nothing.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced that infrastructure will be one of the main planks of its policies over the next Parliamentary term. Chancellor Savid Javid has promised an ‘infrastructure revolution’ in his March budget. Now, does that sound like a Government that’s about to cancel HS2 to you? Can you seriously imagine Javid standing up in a packed House of Commons to say “I would like to talk to you about my infrastructure revolution, but first I’d like to announce that I’m cancelling the biggest infrastructure project in Western Europe!”
The protesters friend in the media have now picked up on the story with The Guardian carrying it on their website. According to the Graun’, three protesters were arrested during the eviction. I’m assuming these will be for obstruction, so unless they’ve done something really stupid they’ll probably be released without charge as there’s little point in wasting the police and courts time prosecuting them – which is no bad thing. Misguided they may be, but they have a right to protest as long as they stay within the law and it’s important that right is upheld in a democracy.
Harvil Rd camp was the biggest and oldest of all five anti HS2 protest camps. It was set up in October 2017 but it’s achieved nothing. It’s never stopped work on the site, merely delayed it a few times. It certainly hasn’t stopped HS2. All it’s really achieved is keep a tiny corner of social media alive with pointless videos, polemics, conspiracy theories and fake news.
The irony of the Guardian covering this is that the newspaper has a very good gallery of the Twyford Down protests in 1992-93. These were against the building of the new M3 motorway and they really put today’s tiny StopHs2 ‘direct action’ protests into perspective. You can find the gallery here.
I suspect this setback is going to be quite an important one for the anti HS2 campaign. ‘Direct action’ was their last resort, but it’s clear that the number have never amount to anything more than a minor nuisance. With the forthcoming announcement on HS2 going ahead expected very soon this could well break the back of what’s left of their campaign. Whilst a few stragglers may remain around the camp it’s clear that their days are numbered as they’ve completely failed in their objectives. It seems some of the locals will be glad to see the back of them too, as this comment on the StopHs2 Facebook page to todays news shows!
Looks like StopHs2’s Joe Rukin better stop playing at being ‘Swampy’ and redouble his efforts to look for a real job!
I’ve not had time to blog about HS2 or the doomed stop Hs2 campaign recently as I’ve been too busy and the news has been anything but positive for the antis. Yes, they’ve had two high profile events in the past week, but one of them was an excruciating failure and the other (which wasn’t much better) will make no difference at all.
The first ‘big’ event was the Taxpayers Alliance releasing a ‘report’ into what they claimed were viable alternatives to HS2. Who did they get to launch the report? David Davis MP, formerly the Brexit Minister until he resigned – just as he has from so many positions before! Why on earth they though the man who Dominic Cummings, former Campaign Director of Vote Leave famously described as thick as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus” would add credibility is a mystery! At the launch, Davis described the plans as worked out in “exquisite” detail. His problem? Many of them were worked out on the back of a fag packet! As usual, Davis was just making stuff up. Then again, so were the TPA, so maybe that was his attraction?
Not only were some of the schemes mentioned sketchy to say the least, the TPA had lifted many of them without permission, leaving their original proposers spitting blood! It got worse. The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders put out a waspish press release which pointed out that the TPA couldn’t even add up! Here’s what they said. Feel the burn!
Things got even worse for the TPA when it became clear Northern leaders were having none of their nonsense either. Here’s what Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, had to say in the Chronicle!
“Northern business and civic leaders all agree we need HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and more investment in key road and mass transit schemes for city regions.
Why should hard pressed taxpayers in the North, who pay double the amount of road tax and fuel duty than those living in London, be forced to make a choice between them after decades of underinvestment here?
This half-baked plan is an embarrassment to the Tax Payers Alliance because the sums don’t add up.” He added: “Northerners are not going to stand for cancelling HS2 in order to pay for a list of schemes decided by a bunch of Westminster bubble types trying to impress Tory leadership candidates”.
Another burn delivered!
Of course, it’s no co-incidence that most of the Tory opposition to Hs2 comes from the same Brexity right-wing fringe that David Davis et al inhabit. Much of it is centred on the address of those secretive lobby groups the TPA and IEA: 55 Tufton St.
The next embarrassment came with the release of the House of Lords Economic Committee report into Hs2. It was a wishy-washy, piss-poor bit of work that had clearly decided what it was going to say before they’d even bothered taking evidence. They tried to cast doubts on Hs2, mostly by trotting out the same old stuff the last Lords Committee had (see this earlier blog). Their tactic of trying to play off Northern rail investment against Hs2 is straight out of the IEA/TPA playbook. But that’s hardly surprising as the collusion is obvious, as is the prominence of Brexiters on the Ctte, like Lord Lamont and the Chair of the Committee, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.
The morning the report was published, Alistair Darling (aka Lord Darling of Roulanish)was trotted out to on the TV to say that more investment is needed in the North – but Hs2 isn’t it. As usual he was given a free ride by the media, none of whom seemed to know his history. I’ll sum it up thus “Man who cancelled major investment in the North calls for major investment in the North”. Hypocritical, no? As Labour Transport Minister and later Chancellor of the Exchequer Darling created the very problem he was complaining about. It was he who pulled money from the Liverpool and Leeds tram schemes at the last moment (Liverpool had even gone out and bought the tramway rails in readiness!). He also stopped the ‘big bang’ expansion of the Manchester tram network. As Transport Minister he oversaw electrification of a piddling 9 miles of UK railway, the section from Crewe to Kidsgrove, and that was it.
The report has not gone down well. The British Chambers of Commerce were less than impressed. Their spokesman said this:
Worse was to come as others digested the report. Nottingham MP and Chair of the Transport Select Committee spotted a faux-pas straight away, tweeting this;
Both Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) piled in too, issuing this well informed and highly critical statement. The Nottingham Post followed up on Lilian’s point, observing that the Lords hadn’t mentioned Toton once! The absence of mentions of the Midlands is hardly surprising when you think about it. The region gets in the way of the Lords trying to play the Northern narrative. I’ve little doubt that this report will be as unsuccessful at stopping Hs2 as the last one, which it’s destined to sit alongside on the Lords library shelves, gathering dust.
On Thursday afternoon I listened to Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister make his keynote speech at the Railtex trade fair. he made it crystal clear that neither the TPA or Lords had changed the party’s stance on Hs2 and they remained solidly behind the project.
The week got even worse for stophs2 when the latest YouGov opinion poll came out, as it blew out of the water their oft-repeated claim that the country ‘overwhelmingly’ opposes HS2. They often trot out figures claiming 80-90% of folk don’t want it. Here’s the reality.
Note the figure for London where more folks support than oppose Hs2! This will cause consternation amongst the remaining Camden Nimbys. The reality is that a huge amount of work putting the case for Hs2 is now being made by regional political and business leaders across the country. Add to that the fact the economic impact of 1000s of Hs2 related jobs is being felt and you can start to understand why opinions will shift in favour of Hs2. There’s also a lot more positive publicity around the project and there’s an awful lot more to come. The fact work on the ground has started means that what was seen as a vague concept for so many years is now being seen as something that’s tangible.
There’s two other pieces of bad news for Hs2 antis. The two new petitions they’ve started on the Government website are both bombing. They both close in October but they’ve already run out of steam. The one started by the Bucks Herald has a measly 8521 signatures after a month, whilst the one StopHs2 started has just scraped past the 16,000 mark today. It’s only been going 20 days but its already falling well below the daily average it needs to succeed. It’s doomed.
The final piece of bad news for Hs2 antis is that the High Court has extended the scope of the injunction governing the (ineffectual) protests at the Harvil Rd site. This will cramp their style even futher.
I’m working in central London today and serendipity meant that nearby the Harvil Rd stophs2 protesters were ‘up before the beak’ at the Royal Courts of Justice, where Hs2 Ltd and the DfT had applied for an injunction against 8 named protesters (that’s all there is on a regular basis). Here’s the details, care of the protesters own Twitter account.
Rather foolishly considering they’ve so little support, the protesters called for a demonstration outside the hearing. They publicised it via Twitter and the Penny & Joe show (formerly known as Stophs2) joined in…
10.30-12.30? That suited me fine, so I decided to pop along and see how they were doing and what the media scrum would be like. Would the City of London police be out in force to keep order I wondered? I thought I’d give them plenty of time, let Joe Rukin get his inflatable elephant set up and the party get into full swing, so I didn’t pop along until 11.30. This is what I found. Nothing, no-one, nada, zip, not a sausage – nothing….
The Rolls building’s to the right of the picture. Considering that Hs2 passes through NINE London constituencies holding a total of 1,079.897 souls that’s an impressive bit of apathy! It also highlights the Harvil Rd protesters problem. Unlike when they flit between Hillingdon & Euston, when you’re up in court, you can’t be in two places at the same time!
I’m puzzled. The anti Hs2 mob have always sworn blind that they’re the majority. That (depending on which clickbait poll you care to read) the whole country is united in opposition to Hs2. It’s been the one single message that’s run through their campaign like the lettering in a stick of rock. Everybody opposes Hs2…
OK, so let’s bin the clickbait polls and the posturing, cut through the crap and look at reality. Let’s crunch some real numbers and look at events on the ground.
For a start, how many people live in the 63 constituencies that Hs2 passes through? According to the Government website Hs2 antis often use for their petitions, that’s 6,567,433 people. Yep, over 6.5 MILLION – hardly an insignificant number. So, first question. If that’s the case, why’ve less than 0.37% of them signed the latest Stophs2 petition? I’m typing this at 12:53 on a Saturday. Here’s the score on the door as I do. 24,814 – out of 6.5m
In fact, the position’s worse than that total suggests. 24814 is the total nationally, it includes the 3 received from the Orkneys & Shetland (where Hs2 is obviously a burning issue and dominating the inbox of the local MP). It also includes 2 signatures from Mid Ulster, another area which is clearly vexed about Hs2. So, what’s the real total for the 63 constituencies? I crunched the numbers yesterday. Here they are.
Having taken out all the signatures from constituencies away from the route we’re left with the fact that just 0.21% of people living on the route of Hs2 have signed the Stop H2 petition! 0.2%! So much for the strength of the support Stop Hs2 claim. But then this is what happens when you look beyond the hype to the real numbers.
It’s the same when you look at the campaign on the ground. They used to hold annual conventions, the last one was at The Staffordshire showground in June 2013. Their last national rally was in April 2014, the day Parliament passed the Phase 1 bill with a stonking majority of 411. Less than 100 demonstrators countrywide turned up.
Now the focus has switched to ‘direct action’ to prevent Hs2 being built. Apart from the fact this is a tacit admittance of their failure, it’s also proved to be a huge embarrassment due to the miserly turnout. Take Euston as an example. On the 12th January a local Vicar and another protester chained themselves to a tree in Euston Gardens. How many protesters were there? Less than the number of media who turned out to watch! (link).
Now this was central London and a borough that the protesters tell you is dead set against Hs2? So where are they all? One of the people interviewed, Keri Brennan is from Hillingdon, not Camden! Stophs2 should have had hundreds of people here, but they didn’t. Why? Because most people have given up. What you see in the TV interviews are the same few faces.
It was the same a few days later when the gardens were closed. How many demonstrators staged a sit-down protest? THREE.
This is Camden (pop 143,242) and this is the best they can do? One of them is from Hillingdon!
If this is the best they can do it really is laughable! If they can’t get people to turn up in central London then they really are in trouble. Meanwhile, what about that other protest in Harvil Rd in Hillingdon? It’s no better there. Harvil Rd has been organised by Hillingdon Green party. One of the stalwarts of the Harvil Rd protest is a woman called Sarah Brooks. Wait a minute, Sarah, that name sounds familiar? Yep, it’s the same Sarah who was at Euston in the pic above. There’s so few people involved that they have to be shared between protests!
Harvil Rd isn’t exactly a hotbed of protest either. They have a small camp opposite the site entrance and occasionally make a nuisance of themselves by climbing on heavy plant or blocking the site entrance. Here’s an example.
Not exactly the Twyford Down protests, is it?
Corralled behind those barriers are a grand total of FOUR protesters! Hs2 Ltd have announce that they’re seeking a High Court order to restrain the protesters. They’ve named SEVEN people in it – that’s all the regulars involved! Here’s another view produced by the protesters themselves that includes a plea for extra people to join them.
In the video on the left hand side is another familiar face. The ‘spokesman’ for Hillingdon Green party, Mark Kier, who produced this load of tosh back in December. I mean, come on folks! This isn’t exactly on the scale of the Twyford Down or the M11 link road protests is it? This is their problem. The anti Hs2 groups have always written cheques they can’t cash. They’ve always pretended that they have more public support then they had. Sadly, the national media has always swallowed their claims without questioning them. This blog doesn’t. It was the same when the Hs2 plus report was launched in Manchester in 2014. None of the handful of demonstrators outside was from Manchester (which doesn’t have a single StopHs2 group in the whole of the city), they were all from Cheshire!
If Greater Manchester says ‘No’ to Hs2, why a you lot all from Mid-Cheshire then, you lying toads?
Of course all this is a sideshow. Hs2 Phase 1 is under construction. On the 30th January the spotlight shifts and the Hybrid Bill for the next phase of HS2 – the section from Birmingham to Crewe will get its second reading in Parliament. It would take a miracle for the bill not to pass as Hs2 has always had cross-party support. A fact that makes these futile protests look even more pointless.
UPDATE: 9th February 2018.
As expected, the Phase 2 a Hybrid bill sailed through by 295 votes to 12. There wasn’t a single stophs2 protester outside Parliament that day. Meanwhile, the Harvil Rd protest has faded away and attracts little attention or support. It’s the same at Euston where the removal of trees in Euston Square gardens resulted in a protest from just a handful of people;
Over 143,000 people live in Camden but this is the best anti Hs2 protesters could do.
Meanwhile, StopHs2, the sole remaining ‘national’ campaign group hasn’t been heard from all month (apart from a couple of retweets on twitter). It’s website hasn’t been updated since January. Will the last one out please turn off the lights?