This is a guest post by Mike Geddes, a long term Stop HS2 activist.
Today sees a big march by public sector workers in defence of their pensions. Meanwhile, for the past few weeks the space in front of St Paul’s cathedral has witnessed the ‘Occupy’ camp, demonstrating against the massive inequality between the 1% and the 99% of the population. If you think these have no relevance to the opposition to HS2, think again:
1. The public sector workers’ march will bring very large numbers of people onto the streets showing their discontent with the way government is handling the pensions issue, with misleading half-truths (‘gold plated’ pensions), scare tactics and attempts to set other groups against them (why are you complaining, private sector workers get even worse pensions) and an apparent failure to negotiate in good faith. Does this sound familiar? Does it not remind us of the attempts by government to cast all opposition to HS2 as NIMBY, attempts to set people in other areas against us (the notorious ‘our jobs or their lawns’ advert) and the many inadequacies of the HS2 public consultation. Both public sector workers and opponents of HS2 face ‘bad governance’.
2. The public sector workers claim that the cuts to their pensions will go (at least partly) not to rebuilding the pension funds but to cutting the deficit and refilling the public coffers – thus giving government more chance of funding projects like HS2 which will otherwise struggle for funding.
3. The Occupy movement draws attention to the gulf between the fat cats at the top of the heap and the rest of us. This chimes with Philip Hammond’s admission that HS2 would be a railway for the rich only, whereas spreading rail investment across the network would bring much wider benefits.
Thus there is much common ground between opposition to HS2, opposition to government plans to cut public sector pensions, and the Occupy movement.
The core Stop HS2 message is that HS2 would be a bad project for the UK.