Still smarting from his spanking in the courts, ‘celebrity’ conservationist Chris Packham has come up with another wheeze to try and stop HS2, the UK’s new high speed railway, of which phase 1 from North of Birmingham to London is already under construction. This time Packham hasn’t needed to persuade people to donate money for his expensive vanity project as he’s fallen back on an old StopHs2 favorite by starting a petition on the Government website! There’s a rag-bag of other names associated with the petition, but the only ones worthy of note are the veteran human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC (who lives near the route), plus Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland Foods, charity trustee and Ambassador for the Wildlife Trusts (by the way, that’s some of the same Wildlife Trusts that environmentalist George Monbiot flayed for ‘greenwashing’ road and housing projects in Buckinghamshire).
Packham and his friends have been busy since last week drumming up media support for the petition and exploiting his social media connections. So far, they’ve had quite a bit of success. As I write this, the petition has reached 47,000 signatures, nearly half-way to its target of 100,000 which it needs to hit by the closing date of 17th June 2021. On that performance, it stands a very good chance of being the very first anti HS2 petition to ever reach the magical 100,00 signatures.
There’s just one teeny, tiny problem that Packham and his fellow signatories aren’t admitting in their daft assertions and breathless bluster…
Parliament “must” vote! Really? Says who? No-one. Certainly not the Government petitions website, which points out that these petitions can’t make Parliament *do* anything, as they explain here.
So this may not be debated in June as there’s already been numerous debates (and primary legislation in the shape of 2 Hybrid Bills) already. Still, there’ll be a vote on repealing the HS2 Hybrid Bills AFTER the debate, won’t there?
Oh, has Packham not mentioned that? How remiss of him!
You see, the petitions debates are held in Westminster Hall, not the main chamber of the House of Commons – and they’re just that – a debate. Or, to put it in simpler terms – it’s a talking shop! As the Westminster Hall website explains:
“Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate’ motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]’. Amendments to such motions cannot be tabled. Divisions (votes) cannot take place in Westminster Hall.”
So, in short, there’s no way on God’s green earth that the Government’s Parliamentary Managers – or Parliamentary process would allow this (or any other petition) to go to a division (vote) in the Commons. It’s a dead duck! Packham’s peddling the fiction that if 100,000 people sign this petition, MPs will stream into the House of Commons and (en-masse) vote to repeal both HS2 Hybrid Bills! It’s a fantasy that relies on the gullibility of people to have no idea how their Parliamentary democracy actually works.
So, let’s indulge ourselves in a flight of fancy just for one minute. What if there WAS a vote in the Commons on HS2? The Government would win it hands down – for several reasons…
- Parliamentary mathematics.
- HS2 has massive cross-party support and the Tories would almost certainly ‘whip’ their MPs to vote in favour. So, even in the even more ridiculous and fantastical scenario of everybody else’s MPs voting to oppose HS2 the Government have an 80 seat majority and can’t fail. But, as the only people who oppose HS2 are a handful of Plaid Cymru MPs and the solitary Green, that ain’t gonna happen – but then, neither’s the vote!
- The number of MPs who oppose HS2 has fallen in recent years as many of those who did back in 2014 have lost their seats or simply left Parliament, so I refer you back to 1.
In short, this petition’s a complete waste of time. It’s just another myth that Packham’s peddling – like his Court case which was eviscerated as a waste of time with no chance of success by the Judges. This time he’s peddling the fantasy that MPs in Parliament would (if they could) vote to repeal the HS2 bill when they can’t – and wouldn’t.
Oh, there’s also the small matter that by the time this petition ends in June, two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will already be several miles into their progress digging the Chiltern Tunnels and there’s going to be a lot of earthworks and new bridges being created along the 140 mile route of the line! This is not like pulling the plug in a computer system no-one’s ever seen, and if you think the Government will allow such a visible, physical monument to failure to be left behind you really do need to give your head a wobble! The only monument to failure you’ll be seeing here has Chris Packham’s name written all over it.
I have to say, it’s sad to see that the UK ‘Green’ movement has been hijacked by ‘conservationists’ with no thoughts for the science of climate change, whose only answer to any practical solution to tackle cutting carbon emissions is “but, Trees!” It’s this blinkered, ‘lose not one tree, not one blade of grass’ fundamentalism that’s making them part of the problem, not the solution, and it’s playing right into the oil/road lobby’s hands.
Oh, I take it back when I say this petition’s a ‘complete’ waste of time. It does have a couple of uses, but Packham won’t like either of them.
Firstly, these petitions come with a handy map showing which constituencies the people who’ve signed it live in. This will allow me to map the decline in signatures of people who live in areas HS2 passes through as I have a wealth of data from years and years of other failed petitions!
Secondly, it allows us to see what people acre about MORE than HS2! For example, here’s the top 10 active petitions at the moment.
In comparison to these, Packham and it friends have a mountain to climb. Oh, and that’s without mentioning that the petition to stop Brexit had over 6.1 MILLION signatures. That worked well…
Enjoy watching HS2 being built! If I have time tomorrow I’ll be blogging an update on progress with its construction.
I’ve a favour to ask…
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