The attempts of Philip Hammond to stereotype anyone who disagrees with his aims as NIMBYs is looking increasingly desperate and starting to lack logic. Much like his business case.
Headlines yesterday read: “Minister: Only NIMBY’s oppose 250mph trains”
Journalists note that critics have attacked the proposals on the basis of it being far too expensive or not green enough. There are plenty of other gaping holes in the rationale for this project. There is a huge range of national critics, groups with no particular link to those parts of Buckinghamshire that might be disrupted. Critics who have expressed concern over the proposed benefits of such a project include: Friends of the Earth, Sustainable Development Commission, RAC Foundation, Financial Times, us here at the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Green Party.
Hammond is trying to avoid answering the valid arguments put forward against HS2; but we know he is aware of them.
A letter we helped organise to The Daily Telegraph was signed by a wide variety of different business leaders and economists, experts with genuine experience of private sector investment and what constitutes a decent business case. They concluded that the case for HS2 doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Conservatives’ competitiveness guru Simon Wolfson signed the letter along with a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, so you would hope Phillip Hammond would pay attention. The letter got a huge amount of media coverage and the next day Barry Sheerman MP, who is a staunch supporter of HS2, told Hammond in the Commons to “hold his nerve”. That implies the opposition to the scheme had the potential to shatter Hammond’s nerve, and makes it even more ludicrous that he is still pretending all of the opposition is only coming from people who live along the route.
The pressure is on and it’s from groups that have pulled apart the business case, the job-creation projections, the green argument and the regional regeneration claims. Questioning whether this is a good deal for taxpayers in other parts of the country where the route doesn’t affect them except by landing them with a £1,000 bill is not NIMBYism. This isn’t about local versus national interest, HS2 isn’t in the national interest.
Clearly this isn’t just a local issue. Of course those along the route will feel strongly about a huge construction project going on in their area, and they are perfectly entitled to. But they are by no means the only opponents. Anyone who can see this scheme isn’t worth the money is an opponent. Anyone who would rather keep the £1,000 is an opponent. Hammond knows that.
"NIMBY is an acronym of Not In My Back Yard – a derogatory term for people who aren’t happy with a project or idea just because it affects what they personally stand to lose."
Hammond wishes that it was only those along the route who had realised this is a raw deal, just as he wishes the business case for this vanity project stood up to scrutiny. He’s a Minister who presumably agrees in principle with ideas like: consulting the public, giving taxpayers’ a good deal, listening to valid objections; but that kind of thing can be unwelcome when it clashes with a Department’s signature project. Agreeing with a concept in theory but not when it negatively affects your own interests? There is something a bit NIMBY about that, isn’t there?