While North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles was joined in voting against the HS2 Bill by almost all the other local MPs whose constituencies not affected by the route of HS2, Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright was noticeably absent from both the debate and the vote. How could it be that Coventry MPs Jim Cunningham and Geoffrey Robinson, along with Rugby MP Mark Pawsey and Leamington and Warwick MP Chris White stood up to be counted against this Government vanity project, whilst Mr Wright, who has one of the most affected constituencies had nothing to say at all?
The answer is of course that unlike all those others, Mr Wright is a member of the Government responsible for this white elephant, and has a career to think of.
He has of course issued a statement saying that he ‘abstained’ from the vote, which could equally be read as ‘I couldn’t be bothered to turn up’, with the justification that he may still vote against the Bill when it comes to third reading, but of course that would be after the next General Election, and as anyone who follows politics knows, the time to stand up and be counted was at the second reading which has now passed. While other ministers were given the excuse of being sent out of the country, Mr Wright was in Parliament on the day of the debate, and while expecting him to put his constituents first and vote against the bill may have been expecting too much, acknowledging their concerns by bothering to speak in the debate would have at least showed he cared.
However, on the day it wasn’t his reluctance to vote or speak in the debate which was the greatest shock, but his unwillingness to talk to his constituents, which was justified with a series of changing excuses. I attended Parliament on the day of the vote, and left a message with his office asking for a meeting at 10.30am. Vikie Shanks, another Kenilworth resident did the same at 12.30pm. Mrs Shanks then went into Parliament to complete a ‘Green Card’, a process which is best described as a Parliamentary version of paging your MP, and asking them to meet you. I met up with Mrs Shanks over an hour after she submitted the card and we decided to ring Mr Wright’s office again.
Soon afterwards, the office rang Mrs Shanks back telling her that Jeremy was in Parliament but too busy to meet her, but if she had left her first message earlier than 12.30pm, he would have done. This was despite the fact I had first rung his office at 10.30am, which I reckon counts as earlier than 12.30pm.
Also, Mrs Shanks was told that Mr Wright was in Parliament, but just minutes later when I went to deposit my Green Card in Central Lobby, a message had been left on the desk to say exactly the opposite, that he wasn’t in Parliament at all!
When I emailed Mr Wright about these facts, that his office had given contradictory statements on two different issues, he completely ignored my concerns and responded saying: “Simply turning up and expecting me to do so [meet] on the morning of the event is profoundly unrealistic.” Of course for over a dozen other MPs who not only met with their constituents, but also came to speak to the Stop HS2 rally, this proposition was perfectly realistic.
I didn’t expect a great deal from Mr Wright, but I didn’t expect this. Clearly, I expected too much.
Joe Rukin, Campaign Manager, Stop HS2