High speed campaign turn off

By Leon Bailey-Green

Getting support from as many people as possible is key for a successful campaign. That includes bringing atypical supporters on board. It’s something we’ll be discussing at our breakfast event.

Stop HS2, one of the main organisations encouraging the government to scrap the high speed rail project, might want to diversify its messaging to get new supporters, such as those of us who think there is a positive case for HS2.

Whilst the primary goal of the campaign is to see the project die, it’s clear that HS2 is happening. I wonder if Stop HS2 might in some way admit defeat and change their approach?

As someone who wants work on HS2 to get going – I do think there are long term economic benefits – I wouldn’t support Stop HS2 in its current guise. Although I’d back a campaign which existed to sense check the government’s proposals, to ensure as little disruption, and maximum compensation, to affected local communities.

If, like me, you believe Stop HS2 is campaigning in vain, it’ll be no time until they face the prospect of having to adapt. As Drew mentioned in this blog post, sometimes campaigns can risk asking for too much, and may instead need to compromise.

The people behind the campaign have genuine concerns, but perhaps to reach the unconverted they may have to meet the government in the middle.

There will be a discussion at our breakfast event on charities and campaign groups preaching to the converted; find more information here.

A response from Drew Lindon

I agree with you on this one Leon. No, don’t call the doctor, I’m still in my right mind.

Stop HS2 has certainly put it all on the line to prevent HS2, with a wide variety of research and activities over the last few years. But it may well be time to devote some more resources to minimising what they see as the negative impact of the new line, or fully abandon the StopHS2 overall goal in favour of damage limitation.

To be sure, big governmental projects like this have been stopped before, and later on in their implementation, but it is rare. We’re now into substantial ‘sunk costs’ territory for the government, and a lot of political capital has been spent too. This makes it more unlikely this project will be cancelled – look how the ‘Universal Credit’ benefits project has limped on since 2010 despite multiple delays and cost overruns. I’d respect StopHS2’s commitment if they keep going, but it may be time to reconsider strategy lest their efforts go to waste.

In this case, I think the question is less about the organisation broadening their reach of supporters per se, and more about changing direction which may have the added effect of engaging different supporter audiences. There’s an inevitable tension in that change which would be challenging to address internally and with supporters. Even if the StopHS2 maintains its original overall goal, their existing supporters might not stay if the organisations starts putting resources into minimising the impacts of a fully built HS2.

We’ll be talking about how charities and other influencing organisations can engage and convince larger audiences at our event in December.