The news, revealed by the Sunday Telegraph, that Cheryl Gillan sold her constituency home in November has caused great anger among local residents.
As Marilyn Fletcher writes in an open letter:
Cheryl Gillan’s Changed Stance: Her Pre-election Pledge and Hansard’s Record
At the 29 March 2010 public meeting at the Misbourne School a few days after the original announcement of the HS2 route Cheryl Gillan loudly pledged her unremitting opposition to HS2 and her absolute commitment to overturning the project in the form it was presented. She said:
“The route isn’t part of our manifesto, but I would defy the party whip – be very, very sure of that. My constituents come first to me in all instances but I am well placed to speak to the Secretary of State if it is a Conservative Government, to say that this is not a preferred route for this county.”
“I believe this project will threaten the quality of our lives – not just for now but for generations to come.”
“If this route ever comes to fruition there will be a lot more than just the blight on the properties nearby. The impact on the whole area would be absolutely phenomenal” (Bucks Examiner 1 April 2010, Bucks Free Press 2 April 2010).
At the meeting she went out of her way to stress the damage it would do and objected in particular to the route going through the widest part of the Chilterns AONB. She got our votes.
In parliament on Tuesday 10 January Hansard (column 42) says:
Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State and thank her for her commitment to HS2 today. She will, of course, be aware that there has been a great deal of support from members of the public and from businesses in Wales on this. Can she confirm whether the Secretary of State for Wales, in her capacity as Secretary of State for Wales, made representations in favour of this, thus reflecting widespread opinion in Wales?
Justine Greening: The Secretary of State for Wales did her job both as a Welsh Secretary and as a constituency MP in talking to me about the benefits of the project, and I thoroughly agree with her that we have ended up with the right line, with the right mitigation.
If you read the Hansard statement above it is perfectly clear and allows for none of the wriggle-room Cheryl Gillan now appears to be trying to find.
I believe Cheryl Gillan has simply not abided by her original pledge on HS2 at the Misbourne School. I do not think it is an exaggeration to describe HS2 as the biggest challenge our area has faced since World War 2.
Working Against HS2 Within the Conservative Party
I appreciate everything you and many others inside and outside the local Conservative Party have done over the last two years.
You say you are focussed on any and all avenues within the national Conservative Party to stop HS2.
Where has it got us?
The updated plans released on 10 January 2012 actually shows that people on the Chiltern Ridges will be significantly worse off than under the Consultation design as presented in February 2011. The cuttings are 8 metres shallower (now as little as 2 or 3 metres deep in places) with obvious potential aural and visual repercussions in South Heath, The Lee, Lee Common, Ballinger, Great Missenden and probably Prestwood.
To present the new tunnelling between Amersham and Little Missenden as a negotiating success is misleading. The new design is actually a cost saving almost certainly in response to the paper on spoil I produced and presented to the Transport Select Committee and the HS2 Consultation.
Cheryl Gillan’s Sale of Her House
Even before the sale of her (token constituency) house there was widespread dissatisfaction with Cheryl Gillan’s performance on HS2.
Over a year ago for instance I had no difficulty in gathering signatures to this effect from almost every business in Great Missenden. We called on her to resign her Cabinet post and concentrate on defending her constituents against HS2. This was widely reported in the local press.
You may also recall the loss of Gilbert Nockles’ hitherto safe Conservative seat to an Independent on an anti HS2 ticket.
To judge by Hansard (above), Cheryl Gillan has steadily become a person identified as working with the Government on the HS2 project rather than against it.
For me, and I suspect many others, Cheryl Gillan’s action in selling her (token) property in Amersham (her real “home” has always been in Epsom) at a time like this is simply the last straw.
This property, moreover, was quietly put on the market in June 2010 immediately after her re-election and taking her seat in the Cabinet. Rather than a heat-of-the-moment lapse of judgement, the move to sell the house at this particular time comes across as cynical and calculating just when we thought she was beginning to fight our corner! I know Whielden Street well and the only time an estate agent’s notice has appeared is when the sale went through. In other words, she was telling us on HS2: Everything Is There To Play For / Stick With It / Don’t Give Up / I’m Working Behind The Scenes while quietly disposing of her stake in her constituency.
For the record, some will recall her citing this very house and her determination to defend it in her outraged attack on HS2 at a Misbourne meeting. i.e. she used it to demonstrate her solidarity with us.
For her to put out a defensive story now about her husband’s immobility is cynical and unconvincing. They never spent any time in the property anyway and if they had any commitment to the people she is supposed to serve she could have found a ground floor flat or a bungalow.
She is simply so devoid of judgement – or so out of touch – that she could not even go through the motions of quietly hanging onto it for a couple more years.
This is the minister whose quiet diplomacy is supposedly fronting the anti HS2 political campaign on our behalf!