Leeds council debating HS2 tomorrow – who’s speaking for the people who say “no”?

chamberI’m looking forward to tomorrow’s debate at Leeds City Council about the £50bn high speed rail project, HS2.

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.

So …

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)

In neighbouring Wakefield and Bradford, even Labour Party council leaders aren’t convinced by the project.

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. 

Hat waiting to be eaten on Leeds HS2 platform (artist's impression)

Hat waiting to be eaten on Leeds HS2 platform (artist’s impression)

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.

As if.

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.”


About the leeds citizen

contributions to this blog welcome
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Leeds council debating HS2 tomorrow – who’s speaking for the people who say “no”?

  1. City Councillors love these glamour projects. I’d advise you to redo your Fat Controller graphic
    and put in the Simpsons Monorail man.

  2. Simon Cooke says:

    I’m available to speak against this hideous waste of money 🙂

  3. markelt says:

    There’s a report in The Times today of a YouGov poll that says 58 percent of people across the North are against the project. I live in Warrington and use the West Coast Mainline so would stand to gain if HS2 was a good use of money. But I won’t and it isn’t.

  4. Pingback: Leeds today: thanks, parking, shopping, southbank, kirkgate, firefighters, NHS, bins, authority and things to do. | Beyond Guardian Leeds

  5. Another Leeds Citizen says:

    I’ve heard it suggested that Labour members have been told that even abstention would be treated as a vote against by the Whip.

    Next year, there are many fewer lucrative external appointments as Metro is subsumed into the new West Yorkshire Joint Authority. I’m sure the increased discipline has absolutely nothing to do with people caring more about their own best interests rather than the interests of those they’re elected to represent.

  6. Koola says:

    I’m all for HS2 – the country’s rail infrastructure is crumbling, there are significant capacity issues and, in my opinion, this WILL mean more London-based professional services work can be carried out effectively in Leeds. The much vaunted price tag isn’t quite as significant when you realise it is stretched out over a significant timescale, and to be quite honest if this isn’t spent on a national piece of infrastructure such as HS2, you can bet Boris will do his level best to suck as much of it back into London for Crossrail 2, Boris Island Airport and half a dozen other shiny projects – don’t expect to see the equivalent cash spent on upgrading existing infrastructure.

    Hopefully politicans will see the very long term benefits, and not focus on the vocal short-term NIMBYism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s