die belebende Bedenkung

Pot and kettle

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To recap the Guardian article of 24 April, David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail is

seeking funds to counter opponents of the £17bn project to build an ultra-fast rail line between London and Birmingham, warning that the naysayers have a £1m war chest. Professor David Begg, former chairman of engineering firm Tube Lines and non-executive director of airport group BAA, launched the organisation last month following a dinner attended by the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, and senior transport industry figures.

In an email to attendees, Professor Begg asked each company that joins the not-for-profit body to contribute £10,000, alleging that the project’s “vociferous” opponents have amassed a £1m fund. It is understood that major public transport groups with UK operations have been contacted as part of the fundraising drive.

The article went on explain that the campaign would be taken forward using a variety of channels, including social media, individual briefings, opinion polls, party-political style “instant rebuttal”, and telecanvassing of businesses, using wherever possible, the “voices of real people to articulate the practical benefits of high-speed rail.”

Campaign for High Speed Rail internsIt seems odd for Mr Begg to be denigrating opponents of HS2 ‘as rich Nimbys with a £1 million war chest’, while running a campaign that’s looking for £10,000 contributions from businesses, and operated with professional PR support. Generally, businesses are looking for a return on their investment, yet at the time of writing, the Campaign’s website gives very little information about how it is run, and how supporter-contributors influence it. The only “real people” involved seem to be interns looking for an entree into the world of public relations.

There are at least some transparency rules in place regulating donations to, and operations of, British political parties. So it’s anomalous that the workings and influence levers of politically controversial corporately funded campaigns, remain completely invisible.

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