Stifle that yawn and I’ll tell you why I’m going to be tuning in to the live relay of the council session over the interweb.
It’s because I want to carry out a simple experiment into how the views of Leeds citizens get taken seriously by their political representatives.
Listen to the utterings of our local politicians and unelected “economic leaders” and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the city of Leeds and the region around it are UNANIMOUS that HS2 is A GOOD THING.
But we all know that really isn’t true, don’t we?
We’re far from unanimous.
According to a YouGov poll, 58% of people in the north of England now oppose HS2. (thanks to markelt for the info in comments below)
Whatever the politicians say, the truth is that in Leeds, like everywhere else, we’re split at least 50-50 on whether HS2 is what is needed for the city, West Yorkshire and the North.
The majority of the people I come across (it’s anecdotal, but hey) are either dismissive or have serious doubts about the project, and many would rather the money was used to improve our local and regional transport in a different way.
And the only Yorkshire opinion poll I’ve seen on the issue agreed with them.
So you’d expect that councillors would reflect this clear divide in opinion.
Hence, the experiment: when Leeds’ elected councillors get up and make their speeches tomorrow about HS2, I’m going to tick them off one by one to check which of them is representing the views of the Leeds people who say “no”.
There will be plenty of huffing and puffing about “keeping control of HS2 costs” and about defending the well-being of those local residents who are going to end up blighted by the route …
… but will we get to hear a single voice from the two main parties in Leeds questioning the principle of the project?
I’ll eat the Fat Controller’s hat on the platform of the new Leeds HS2 station if a single one of them fails to toe their party line.
The experiment won’t prove anything that we didn’t know already: i.e. that when it’s a choice between the views of the electorate and the views of the party, the party wins; that this “elected representative” malarkey doesn’t do what it says on the can; and that political parties and informed, open debate don’t really mix.
For completists, here’s the motion the councillors will be debating. It won’t be on till towards the end of the session, so you don’t need to tune in till after 4pm at the earliest.
“This Council confirms its support for HS2 and welcomes the investment this will bring to Leeds, Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East, and urges the Government to press ahead with the scheme, whilst keeping control of the costs and assessing the best possible route.”