Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Day 6 of the Public Inquiry, and Darth Vader is in our midst. Yes, it's Brian Butler - Vice-Chairman of the Longdendale Siege Committee.
But hang on, this is the Vice-Chairman appearing? And why has the Chairman - Mike Flynn - come over all shy? Is it anything to do with the fact that Roy Oldham is part of his family? Or perhaps that in the 1970s, he was against a bypass (when the proposed route went through his backyard - such a NIMBY!)? We may never know, because it seems he doesn't want to answer awkward questions...
Anyway, Brian was there, and he and John Watson traded pleasantries, mainly about the size of Brian's petition. Butler was keen to elaborate:
When the Labour Government came to power and announced a review of the roads situation, we raised 9,000 signatures and presented it to the Government (page 16, line 7)
Now we've heard a lot about this petition, but our spies tell us that John Watson needs to pay a bit more attention to it: on the day, Butler trumpeted that it had 9,000 signatures. Which is interesting, because if this is the same petition that Purnell, Levitt and Co were flogging it in Downing Street back in 2003, it had 8,500 signatures.
Plus, it wasn't presented to the Government - it was presented to No. 10 Downing Street. This is important - there's a public record of petitions presented to Parliament in Hansard, but no equivalent for No. 10. That's because it's largely a PR exercise for the cameras. Furthermore, there are very specific and detailed rules about the format of petitions presented to Parliament. But it would be too risky for Siege to subject their petition to proper scrutiny, so they stuck to the 'Rock Star' petition approach.
Further back in time (2001), the petition was said to number 6,900. Now you might say 'time has moved on, it's grown, they've got more signatures', which could be true. But if it was submitted to No. 10 Downing Street in 2003 with 8,500 signatures, then it cannot have grown - unless this is not the same document.
But if, as the Vice-Chair of the Longdendale Siege Committee, Brian Butler has said there are 9,000, then there must be. After all, if it's a serious petition, it will have been collated correctly. Surely, a serious organisation must be conducting their own evidence to rigorous analysis? One hopes so, because otherwise, Butler and the rest of the Siege will have been misleading the Inspector...
And the accuracy of the petition was questioned in John Hall's cross-examination:
Q. Of these 9,000, signatures, Mr Butler, do they all denote postcodes?
A. I believe so. (page 22, line 10)
Hmmn. John Watson might want to go back and have a look. If the other examples of petitions submitted by this crew are anything to go by (here and here), there are few postcodes provided...
Oh, and if their data isn't sound, Purnell and Levitt will have been lead up the garden path by them as well. Oh dear...
Anyway, more braggadocio issued forth from Butler's mouth in the shape of his comments about the (oft-quoted) 90% of residents supporting the Bypass. Here he is again, in his element:
This support was also reflected by a poll at the Highways Agency meeting held in Hollingworth in 2001 and was estimated to be supported by 90 per cent of the several hundred who attended (page 16, line 14)
Well actually, it was 250 people (section 2.3). So 90% of that is 225 - hardly 90% of Longdendale as has been stated elsewhere, and it wasn't a poll in the sense of a secret ballot, without the intimidation factor from goons like Darth Butler or 'Harry Potter and the Duncan Hollows' et al.
From then on in, Butler's speech is one big rant, chiefly aimed at the CPRE, who he seems to have a fixation with. Plus the well-worn 'objectors are all outsiders' whinge - & this from a relative incomer (who's only lived in the area for 30 years!). Anyway, we dealt with this hypocrisy here, and we'll be having a look at the petition to see how many names it contains that are from 'over 30 miles away' (his words decrying objectors - page 17, line 30).
But the clincher from Butler was given out under questions by Chris Eldridge from Friends of the Earth when asked if Siege had asked Longdendale residents about what they wanted as a solution to traffic problems:
We had already decided that we wanted a bypass and that was what we petitioned on. We were not there to discuss alternatives with people (page 32, line 15)
Of course 'we' means relatives of the Leader of Tameside MBC, and their campaign meetings are attended by local Councillors and members of the Highways Agency and Carillion (contractors), their lavish 'Dick Turpin' roadsigns being funded by TMBC. We know full well who wants this road - and nothing else - and now Darth Butler has had the front to stand up and admit that they are blinkered to a road 'solution'.
(article edited to aid reading, 08/08/2007)