Friday, June 29, 2007

"The light is on but nothing is happening..."*

Being the words of the Highways Agency Barrister, Charles Calvert, during the opening day of the Public Inquiry last Tuesday, it's a phrase that could not be more apt.

It has been widely reported elsewhere, but the Highways Agency had the gall to admit that not only had they failed to submit a huge amount of documents by the statutory deadline, but that they had issued an Errata document to those they had already submitted that was 169 pages in length.

Calls for an adjournment were heeded by John Watson, though not as far as would have been desirable (and might have been achievable if the PDNPA and Natural England had showed some solidarity). The Highways Agency bleated that they need the current timetable because "their staff had booked holidays"! What tactical mischief is at play here? And how revealing was it that TMBC agreed with objectors that an adjournment to September would be OK? Some kind of game are afoot ...

This Inquiry is bound to produce only one result. That much is clear from the contemptuous manner in which objectors and the general public are treated by the hosts TMBC, and John Watson by association. What do I mean? The most immediate and obvious thing was that the Promoters of the Scheme had enough microphones to go around, which the Objectors had none. Furthermore, the microphone that was available kept feeding back. At times, the Promoters and Watson forgot about the mics altogether until they were reminded from the floor that no-one could hear anything.

But 2 things stand out and they are the responsibility of Watson. Firstly, when a member of the public was trying to make a point without a mic and could not be heard, Watson summoned her to front to speak, as if she were a school child. It's clear where the power lies in this room - those at the front, whether it's the promoters or the 'official opposition' are the only ones who really count. This was underlined by TMBC's action in producing only enough copies of their opening statement for those who they consider matter (i.e. not the scum in the cheap seats, even if they support their wretched scheme).

The second thing that it is noticeable is the clear contempt which Watson has for the Save Swallows Wood campaign. He tends to deliberately 'forget' the name:

Sorry, I did not catch your name but I know you are interested in Swallows Wood (page 52, line 5/6)

...and again

You already told me this morning that you are ... from Friends of Swallows Wood, or some manifestation of the wood (page 82 line 26).

The text looks innocuous without the phrasing, but it's clear that Watson thinks we are a joke, like all the other tarmac jockeys.

Suffice to say that Watson comes across like a clean-shaven Alan Sugar. Despite the clear tactical games that the Highways Agency are playing, he continues to do his best to keep this farce on track lest he is the one that is fired.

*page 69, line 5/6 of the transcript

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