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Green candidate: ‘Turn HS2 site into a new national park’

Honest admission that Greens can't win parliamentary seats in Camden

29 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Green by-election candidate Hunter Watts with Kirsten de Keyser, Sian Berry and David Stansell at the party’s election launch in Camden Town

THE controversial HS2 project should be axed and the land already flattened around Euston station turned into a new national park.

This was one of the policy demands at the launch of the Green Party’s local general election campaign on Saturday. Party members gathered under the rail line in Camden Gardens, Camden Town, at an event for parliamentary candidates Kirsten de Keyser and David Stansell.

Ms de Keyser, who is standing against Sir Keir Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras at next month’s general election, said her Labour opponent had been a good MP against HS2 but “ultimately he is whipped by his party”.

Last week, Mr Starmer’s election leaflets called for more opposition to HS2, but the national Labour Party later released manifesto promises based on extending the project. Camden is facing two decades of demolition and disruption to make way for the HS2 site.

Residents and business close to the station have already been driven out, while trees have been uprooted and graves exhumed from the burial grounds from what was St James’ Gardens.

Ms de Keyser said if HS2 was cancelled for being “too expensive and not what we need” then a plan for the land was needed. We can’t undo the damage that has already been done to Euston and those areas,” she told supporters. “But we would not hand that land to the developers. “We will take it ourselves and make an extension of the national park. We’ll plant a million trees and we can all breathe again. We won’t have HS2 and have a fantastic park.”

The project, which will cost at least £80billion to complete, will provide a new service from Euston to Birmingham, and later cities in the north. While local politicians on the ground in Camden have supported the scheme, only the Greens have an official national policy of axing it.

Ms de Keyser said: “HS2 is a biggie for us. It needs to go, it’s a vanity project. There’s something behind this that I don’t like and I just have a feeling that somebody is trying to raze the whole of Camden and north London to the ground so they can fill it with what they want. It’s a land grab basically.”

She added: “These days it’s shocking how often conspiracy theory be­comes conspiracy fact.” Ms de Keyser, who was close to winning a council seat in Highgate last year and is also on the list of candidates for next year’s London Assembly elections, said: “It would not push north, it would suck south. What we need is to connect the northern towns, have a trans-Pennine railway. It’s one of the reasons Brexit happened, because we haven’t invested enough up north. We have not concentrated enough on what it’s like to live up there.”

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, who is also a councillor in Camden, said she would like some of the HS2 land to be used as a community land trust with some new affordable housing. “If we can use most of it for green space that would be amazing,” she said.

Asked if her party’s manifesto was more left-wing than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – it includes a pledge for a universal basic income – Ms Berry said: “We are certainly about transforming the country in a direction which is broadly socialist.” But she added: “We are a different kind of party from Labour. If you look at Labour, you see a lot of top down organisation, a lot of committees made up of big wigs who decide what happens. We are very much more about community action and empowering people from the bottom up to solve our biggest problems.” A full list of election candidates is on the CNJ’s website.

‘There’s no need to vote tactically’

GREEN Party candidates have urged voters not to make their choice based on “tactical voting”. In other areas of the country, the party is involved in a “remain alliance” with the Liberal Democrats, but no such deals have unfolded in Camden’s constituencies because Green campaigners do not think the Brexit-supporting Tories stand a chance.

David Stansell, the candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn said: “I think people are quite loyal to Tulip Siddiq, so if people vote Green then it is very unlikely to let a Tory in.” He added: “The Tories are in a solid third place and they are pretty toxic when I go around on the streets. Boris Johnson is viewed as a total liability and totally disconnected from people’s everyday lives across the whole of the constituency whatever group they come from.”

Labour had talks before the 2017 election about the possibility of Green candidates standing aside but no deal was reached.

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