Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Picks Opposition to Active Travel as Bizarre Election Strategy
The Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for the next General Election, Tom Gordon, appears to have picked opposition to active travel as his bizarre and depressing election strategy.
The headline article of a Lib Dem Focus on Harlow and St Georges leaflet delivered through local doors tries to whip up antipathy to Harrogate Station Gateway. The leaflet features photos of and quotes from Gordon.
As the climate crisis becomes more acute and more obvious to everyone, and transport emissions obstinately fail to diminish, we desperately need principled politicians determined to tackle the problem.
We are crying out for candidates who understand the scale of the changes needed, and are prepared to make the case for them.
Instead, Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems have adopted a cynical and amoral (at best) strategy, of seeking to weaponise opposition to the positive and much-needed changes that Station Gateway represents, in the doomed hope that it will bring them electoral advantage.
Unpopular Tom Gordon
The Station Gateway article in the Lib Dem Focus leaflet begins:
‘The Conservative’s [sic] unpopular Station Gateway has been pulled after the Council received legal advice that it shouldn’t proceed’.lib dem focus leaflet
Station Gateway is not unpopular.
It has been through three consultations, and there is a lot of support for it. In the most recent consultation, more people thought the active travel infrastructure would have a positive effect on their travel in and around the town centre than a negative effect.
Labelling Station Gateway ‘unpopular’ is cynical. Some people may not know the true facts and they could assume that Gordon and the Lib Dems are presenting them with an accurate picture, when they are not.
Anyone can attach the label ‘unpopular’ to something that they are trying to persuade people against. That’s what unpopular Lib Dem candidate Tom Gordon – do you see what I mean? – has done.
A Leaflet Full of Half-Truths
The Lib Dem leaflet misleads about Station Gateway, with half-truths or worse.
Claim: ‘the Council received legal advice that it shouldn’t proceed’.
Truth: a local company launched a judicial review attacking procedural mistakes by the council, notably that there should have been a public inquiry about changes to loading facilities and times. There was legal advice that procedural mistakes had been made, but no legal advice that Station Gateway should not proceed.
Claim: ‘The Conservatives have completely messed up over this project and it is local taxpayers who are paying the price’.
Truth: local taxpayers are not paying for Station Gateway. £11 million was awarded to North Yorkshire from the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) for a scheme to improve access by sustainable transport to the town centre and rail and bus stations. The funding comes from the DfT via West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Criticising the Incumbents
I understand the need for opposition policitians to criticise the record of incumbents.
It isn’t difficult to think of criticisms of the council’s record on active travel. Under the Conservatives, North Yorkshire Council has:
- failed to build any significant cycle infrastructure in the 10 years since the Yorkshire Showground Greenway (2014)
- failed to build any cycle infrastructure with the £1 million Active Travel Fund 2 money it was awarded in 2020
- failed in its ATF3 and ATF4 bids
- ripped out its successful and popular Beech Grove modal filters
- wasted 4 years after funding before building a tiny section of Otley Road Cycleway, then abandoned the project altogether
- failed to produce a meaningful active travel strategy for the West Harrogate developments
North Yorkshire Council’s track record on active travel is abysmal – they haven’t done anything for 10 years. There are rich pickings for anyone who wants to criticise them.
But what tack to do the Lib Dems decide to take? They criticise the Conservative council for doing too much! It beggars belief.
They should get T-shirts printed: THINK THE CONSERVATIVES ARE BAD? WE ARE EVEN WORSE.
Demanding that the Funding is Kept in Harrogate
Gordon and Councillor Pat Marsh are ‘demanding’ that the £11 million of funding is kept in Harrogate.
The problem is that – as they well know – the TCF money is specifically for sustainable travel to the town centre, and time-limited. It can’t just be kept as general council funds, nor should it be.
If the Lib Dems succeed in helping sabotage Harrogate Station Gateway, they should take their share of blame for losing the funding.
Routemap to Carbon Negative
We know from the Routemap to Carbon Negative for the York & North Yorkshire region that we need meaningful changes to transport at pace and scale if we are to have any chance of meeting our climate targets.
We need to:
- reduce vehicle miles travelled by 48% in the next 7 years
- increase walking distance by 40% in the same timescale
- increase cycling distance by 900%, also in the same period
People won’t cycle unless you make it safe and attractive; and there is a huge amount of work to do to create a high-quality cycle network in Harrogate & Knaresborough.
There will also have to be changes that disincentivise driving.
This won’t be popular with everyone. There are local people who vehemently oppose any scheme that involves cycling, and fight tooth and nail to protect drivers’ privileges.
But we cannot keep giving in to the antis.
We need to build a basic cycle network quickly, as in Seville. Then most people will see that it works, and they will support what the council did.
The first step is to overcome the opposition, not give in to it, or try to weaponise it.
It is not as if the status quo is balanced, fair and uncontroversial; it is none of those things.
The Lib Dems and Global Heating
Either you understand the need to reduce transport emissions, and you support significant and meaningful changes to the transport system, or you don’t.
Tom Gordon and the Lib Dems have made it abundantly clear that they don’t support the measures needed to reduce transport emissions. In effect, they support doing nothing to prevent runaway global heating, with all the terrible consequences that that implies – droughts, floods, mass migration and loss of life.
A vote for the Lib Dems in Harrogate & Knaresborough is a vote to do nothing about transport emissions. It is a vote for runaway global heating.
They are making themselves impossible to vote for.
To paraphrase Brian Blessed, I like this Lib Dem candidate not, bring me some other candidate.