The return of the brewery entertainments manager

If, like me, you are a regular viewer of the BBC 1 TV programme Have I Got News for You you may have noticed that HS2 now features in the opening animated sequence. In my opinion this just underlines the view that the merits of HS2 have become a national question, rather than just something that concerns those living close to its intended path. Whenever I meet new people, wherever they come from, and they learn of my involvement in the campaign against HS2 the usual response from them is “What a waste of money”, or something similar.

One of my favourite “rounds” in Have I Got News for You is the “odd one out”. For those not familiar with the show I should explain that the teams are shown four photographs of people (or sometimes animals, or inanimate objects) in the news and are asked to identify the one that is distinct from the others, based upon some – usually trivial – news story, and explain what that distinction is. The suggestions that the teams come up can be very amusing and are often very different from the “answer on the card”, and of course sometimes the “wrong” answers can be just as convincing.

As I am such a fan, I thought that I might pose my own odd one out question. There are no photographs – this is a low budget blog – and, for reasons that will become obvious, there are five choices, not four, all of which are places in the UK. These five are:

Chalfont St Giles


Leamington Spa


Stoke Mandeville

So which is the odd one out?

The answer on the card is Leamington Spa and the reason that it is the odd one out is that Leamington Spa is in Warwickshire and all the others are in Buckinghamshire. Now you may think that this is a not particularly testing question, but you would be wrong. It appears that someone, somewhere responsible for placing adverts on behalf of HS2 Ltd is unaware of this distinction.

That apparent ignorance of geography is my ulterior motive for posing this question; what spurred me to it was an advertisement placed in my local paper, the Leamington Courier, in the issue published four days before the date set for HS2 Ltd to visit Cubbington Village Hall to stage a consultation information event for the area covered by the Offchurch and Cubbington Community Forum. I should explain for the unaware that both Offchurch and Cubbington are villages close to Leamington Spa and both are within the catchment area of the Leamington Courier.

The advert lists four information events that are identified as “in your area” and guess what? Now I think that you are ahead of me here, but just in case you haven’t twigged it, the four events listed are Chalfont St Giles, Waddesdon, Wendover and Stoke Mandeville. There is no mention of the Cubbington event, or of the other two local venues at Southam and Kenilworth. Now I for one would sooner take the five-minute walk from my house to Cubbington Village Hall than a fifty-minute drive to the nearest of the venues in Buckinghamshire, at Waddesdon, so I feel that the half-page advert placed by HS2 Ltd was less than helpful.

In the issue of the Leamington Courier a week earlier the copywriter had done a little better and had correctly identified the Cubbington and the Southam venues as relevant to us, but had still managed to include details of the Chalfont St Giles event rather than Kenilworth.

My reaction to this regrettable faux pas was to e-mail the Head of Consultation, Community and Stakeholder Engagement at HS2 Ltd, pointing out that it was particularly unfortunate in view of the very short notice that my community had been given of the consultation and the programme of events; the announcement of the consultation had been made just twelve days before the date of the Cubbington event. At the time of posting this blog I have not received a reply from her. If I am favoured with any sort of explanation, I will add it to this blog.

The two local action groups did their best to publicise the correct details. Offchurch did a leaflet drop to all villagers. Cubbington was unable to copy this initiative in the limited time available; we have around eight times as many dwellings as Offchurch. However, the same issue of the Leamington Courier carried a letter from me encouraging all locals to attend, an article on the event (prompted by our press release), and an entry in the “What’s On” column (again the result of an initiative by our group). We also put up posters, both our own and the official ones provided by HS2 Ltd.

I like to think that our efforts contributed to a reasonable attendance on the day, despite awful weather. A couple of HS2 Ltd representatives thanked us for playing our part.

I discussed the matter of the rogue adverts with HS2 Ltd staff at the Cubbington information event and was told that a preliminary investigation had indicated that the copy that was sent to the newspaper was correct. If this is true, then it is a mystery how the wrong advert got itself into the Leamington Courier – twice!

So this is an example either of incompetence or misfortune on the part of HS2 Ltd. Unfortunately, it is the HS2 Ltd name that appears on the advert, so I guess that it is HS2 Ltd that has to take the blame.

Issues like this do nothing to reassure local communities that we are dealing with a competent organisation. Whilst this is a minor matter when compared with some of the other questions about competence that HS2 Ltd must face, and that I reported on in my blog The failings of the brewery entertainments manager (posted 26 Apr 2013), it just reinforces the overall impression.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on June 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    HS2 is simply going through the motions hence thanked you for playing your part.
    There is a common thread of blame the unknown or other group approach.

    Competence from what point of view.

    There is no note taking. No note of the name. No feedback. The failings are with the politicians who set about a moving scope with no competence of transport planning and who engaged too few people to make a real assessment of the road and rail needs of wider sections of communities. It is not just the impression but the failings of British large project planning of the failure of leadership and over extension. As Lord Hurd stated decades ago the UK boxes beyond its weight and reach. Now it is boxed in.


    • I take your point Chris. I am the last person who would want to help HS2 Ltd with its major act of vandalism. What I did, I did in order to ensure that as many members of our local community as possible were able to learn the sheer horror of what is planned for our village. I also think that it is good for HS2 Ltd employees and consultants to come face to face with the human consequencies of what they do in their day to day activities.


  2. Re the quiz. Isn’t Chalfont St Giles the only one to have a tunnel?


    • Well “central user” I did say that the “wrong” answer can sometimes be more convincing. However, you could argue that Wendover also has a tunnel, although it is of the “cut and cover” variety.
      By the way, welcome to the site.


  3. Posted by HughS on June 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

    For an organisation charged with designing a railway line, HS2 Ltd show a worrying lack of geographical knowledge. My own local paper, the Bucks Herald, recently featured a large advert, placed by HS2 Ltd, for another one of their consultations. This consultation was on a hardship scheme for those affected by the second phase of HS2, which runs from the West Midlands up to Manchester and Leeds!


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