As sure as night follows day, the last daft Stop Hs2 Parliamentary petition ran out of time and signatures yesterday. Despite frantic efforts by the remaining anti Hs2 groups in the last couple of days they never managed to scrape together more than a few hundred of the 70,000 plus signatures they fell short by after 6 months of trying. Here’s the final (humiliating) total.
29,838 from a population of over 65 million is (quite frankly) pathetic. It’s less than the population of a small town like Bedworth in Warwickshire (30,001). Or, look at it another way. Hs2 will pass through 63 constituencies containing 6,567.433 people. Here’s a breakdown of those figures by the phases of Hs2. They make interesting reading.
Lets take the headline figure first. Of the 6.5m living on the Hs2 route, just a quarter of 1 percent signed the StopHs2 petition. That’s despite the anti Hs2 campaign having been running and organising for 8 years! 55.29% of all the petition signatures came from just 9.69% of constituencies! (63 out of 650).
This is what makes me laugh about these petitions. Tactically, they’ve never made the slightest bit of sense! They’ve never stood a chance of getting 100,000 signatures and even if they did they’re a waste of time because what’s on offer? – the chance for Parliament to do what it’s already going to do – debate Hs2. But, as Parliament has to vote on the various Hs2 Hybrid Bills anyway that’s a given! Add in the fact that Hs2 enjoys cross party support and there’s not a cat in hells chance of it being voted down by MPs. So you can see why all these petitions do is hand people like me a rich seam of data to drill down through and expose the weakness of the anti Hs2 campaign! For example. Just looking at the constituency map of where most signatures come from shows that (surprise surprise) it’s easy to work out where Hs2 will run. So much for the claims that StopHs2 isn’t a Nimby based campaign!
Now let’s look at the numbers for each constituency by phases, starting with Phase 1.
Initially I just kept a running total and percentage. At the end of November 2017 I decided to add monthly totals and last date of signings in order to examine trends. Here’s some headline figures.
The constituency with the most signatures is Chesham and Amersham with 1,723 (1.83% of constituents). The lowest is Birmingham Ladywood with 12 (0.01%). This reflects a trend across all 3 phases. The constituencies with the most signatures are rural and the lowest are urban. Look at the constituencies in Birmingham. The numbers are poor right across the board. They’re no better in London. Only Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner has over 1%. Camden has a measly 555 (0.3%) despite all the supposed opposition to Hs2 in the borough
These figures put to the sword the anti Hs2 campaign’s claims that the majority of the UK opposes Hs2 and that ‘millions’ are blighted. What they show is areas where StopHs2 action groups are active – and where they’re not.
Of course, other people were calling for people to sign the petition, notably the Green Party. Estimates for their membership numbers vary but they’re certainly under 50,000, which suggests they had mixed success. The Greens have struggled to rally opposition to Hs2. I’d suggest the reason for this is twofold. One is their schizophrenic position on High Speed Rail, supporting it ‘in principle’ but opposing it in practice, plus the fact Hs2’s a railway and people rather like railways – it’s not fracking.
The other party (if you can still call them that) to oppose Hs2 was UKIP. Their membership figures can’t be trusted as most of the ones they claim are actually pushing up daisies, but they may still have managed to get a few hundred people to sign.
Now let’s look at the Phase 2 and 2a route from North of Birmingham to Manchester.
Compared to 0.36% of folk living on Phase 1, the number’s dropped by a third to just 0.12% on the Manchester leg. This reflects several things. One’s the weakness of organised opposition here. Stophs2 was always a Southern based campaign and its heartland was the Chilterns. There’s only a handful of ‘action’ groups up North and it’s easy to spot where they’re based on the Manchester leg.
The constituency with the most signatures is Stone with 368 (0.43%) and the lowest is Denton & Reddish in Manchester with 12 (0.01%). Yet again, the figures expose the fact this is a rural campaign, not an urban one. In fact, there’s not a single StopHs2 ‘action’ group in any town or city Hs2 will serve. You could add every single signature in Greater Manchester and it would still be less than the total for Stone, despite the disparity in population size! In fact, look at how few in Gtr Manchester signed each month. The figures are so small that one family signing could double the monthly numbers!
What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, the Phase 2a Hybrid Bill petition’s currently making its way though Parliament. This affects the first five constituencies on the list – 4 of which are in the top 5 signatures! I’d suggest that this means the Phase 2 bill for the leg to Manchester has very little to worry about in the way of organised opposition. The support for Hs2 far outweighs anything else. Now let’s go and look at Phase 2 to Leeds.
I’ve fleshed this one out with a bit more data. It includes population sizes, the names of the MP’s and which way they voted on the Hs2 Phase 2a Bill.
The constituency with the most signatures is Rother Valley with 1650 (1.74%) and the lowest is (yes, you’ve guessed it) an urban constituency – Nottingham North with 17 (0.02%). The picture on this leg is different to the others as the situation’s more mixed. The majority of the opposition to Hs2 has been driven by the 2016 route change – hence the figure for Rother Valley. Also of interest is that despite all the noise made by a vociferous but tiny ‘action’ group in Erewash, they could only muster 200 signatures (0.21%) and their MP, Maggie Throup is no pushover and voted FOR Hs2 phase 2a. The figures also show that the claims that Yorkshire is totally opposed to Hs2 (see one Johnathan Pile here) are very wide of the mark as of the 2,185.931 souls here, just 4793(0.21%) have signed the petition – and 34.4% of them are from one constituency!
These figures lead me to conclude that Yorkshire’s a bit “all mouth and no trousers”. There’s a handful of tiny groups that make a lot of noise, writing cheques they can’t cash, but they’ve little support in the wider community or the political arena. Nor can they agree on a concerted course of action.
This leads me on to another observation. nationally, the anti Hs2 campaign’s collapsed. In 2010 there were 4 allegedly ‘national’ anti Hs2 groups. AGAHST (Action Groups Against Hs2, based in the Chilterns). 51m, a collection of councils (mostly Chiltern and phase 1 based). Hs2aa (High Speed 2 Action Alliance, based in Amersham) and StopHs2 (based in Warwickshire).
Now only StopHs2 survives – if in name only. Its two leading lights live in Bournemouth and Kenilworth, miles away from each other and where the action is nowadays! They’ve given up any pretence of leading a campaign and when they do appear it’s to moan about Hs2 on social media. They’ve no influence on proceedings on Phase 2 and I doubt they’ll survive long enough to even be around when the Phase 2 Hybrid Bill enters Parliament next year.
What’s left of the anti Hs2 campaign is a bunch of disparate local groups with no clear agenda to unite them and no national organisation worth its name to guide them. Some are still re-running the tactics that failed to Stop hs2 on phase 1, others have given up and are fighting for mitigation (such as extended tunnels) and/or compensation.
In summary, there is no Stop Hs2 campaign anymore. It’s collapsed. To stop Hs2 a campaign needs money, organisation and most crucially – political support. The remaining folk opposed to Hs2 have none of these and the way many of the MPs who opposed Phase 1 voted FOR phase 2a is the most obvious example.
No doubt a few die-hards and the bandwagon jumping egotists who infest such campaigns via social media will continue to pretend otherwise, but it matters not. Cross-party support for Hs2 remains unbroken, Phase 1 is under construction, the phase 2a bill is unstoppable and the phase 2 bill is inevitable.