‘Man the barricades, Camden - it’s war!’ - Stanley Johnson and co rally star-studded audience against HS2
14:51 24 January 2014
Hundreds of Camden residents joined shoulder-to-shoulder with the borough’s rich and famous to shout out about the “decade of disruption” that could be heading their way as part of the HS2 rail link project.
In what could be the largest public meeting ever held on HS2, the crowd of at least 500 were given rousing speeches by an influential panel of politicians, campaigners and transport officials.
Among those listening in the audience at Cecil Sharp House, in Primrose Hill, was director Tom Hooper, actor Sir Jonathan Miller and presenter Dermot O’Leary.
Some of those attending heard for the first time the extent of the impact that Camden residents could suffer.
This includes the demolition of 226 homes, massive disruptions to traffic and a rise in air and noise pollution.
Mr Johnson, father of Boris Johnson and whose house near Regent’s Park lies close to the proposed route for HS2, delivered a Churchillian speech calling on residents to start the “fight for Camden”.
“This is like war,” he said.
“We need the people of Camden to man the barricades.
“Hundreds of thousands of people in this borough need to rise up and say to themselves, ‘Camden will fight and Camden will be right!’
“If we don’t fight for Camden, then who else will?”
Launching a stinging attack on Lord Andrew Adonis, who pioneered the HS2 project while Transport Secretary during the last Labour Government, he demanded HS2 proponents apologise.
“Calling Baron Adonis, ‘Baron Adonis of Camden’, is like calling Air Marshall Bomber Harris, ‘Harris of Berlin’,” he said.
“Labour and Lib Dem peers should be lining up to apologise for invading your personal space, and if anyone is groping Camden it’s Lord Adonis.”
Martin Sheppard, from the Pan-Camden HS2 Alliance, revealed Lord Adonis, along with current Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and a host of other HS2 proponents, had turned down his invitations to the evening’s meeting.
Two empty chairs reserved for the pair took prime spot at the front of the stage.
“You’d have thought if HS2 was such a wonderful idea those responsible for it would be proud to promote and defend it,” he said.
“I also invited Ben Ruse, the public spokesman for HS2. Even he refused.
“I cannot think of a more useless function than to be a non-speaking public spokesman, but HS2 has one.”
The panel - with major support from most of the audience - passed a resolution that called on HS2 officials to rethink their current proposals.
Assuming the £43billion link goes ahead, they called for the overground section of the rail link passing through Camden to be scrapped or built in a tunnel.
They also called for full compensation to be paid to all those affected and for expansion to Euston Station to be redrawn to mitigate the impact on surrounding homes.
The audience were also told major demonstrations against the project were “in the pipeline”.
Leader of Camden Council Sarah Hayward added for the call for residents to start fighting the London to Birmingham link.
“In all the time I’ve been a councillor and in all the time I’ve been leader I haven’t been to one that’s been even half as well attended as this,” she said.
“The council is doing a huge amount of work on HS2 and the vast majority at our - or your - expense.
“We need to mobilise everyone to campaign against it.”