The real digital revolution is yet to come

A post on Next Gen journal – Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 – crossed my radar recently. The title summarises the viewpoint of the article: that unless you were a teenager when Facebook began, you are way too out of it to be a social media director.

She’s wrong of course: social media is about the social side of things, not the medium. People are people, whether they are using usenet, or the latest incarnation of facebook. It is in some senses rather amazing that what I learnt about internet debating on usenet, using text based programs like tin, are the same skills that I use when debating from a tablet computer on Twitter.

She’s also wrong, because she can remember when she heard about Facebook: it’s not always existed for her. So some of her ideas about relationships were already set when she signed up for her first social media account.

She is also wrong in thinking that social media is all about her (generation). Of course it isn’t: older people use it, and not just as a way of communicating between businesses and youth. The ways a 40-something will interact with another 40-something may be just as relevant to a social media director, as how two teenagers interact. And lets face it, many people – whether a grandparent in their 80s, or a 40-something like me – use social media tools to connect socially.

But she’s right to have seen that the way people think will be different in the future.

Of course her generation will change things a bit: I’ve said in interviews on a number of occasions that by the time HS2 is due to open in 2026, the teenagers who grew up with facebook will take those ways of working into their careers and expect to interact with business associates completely differently to present day managers.

It won’t be her generation though who “can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come”, and possibly not even the sixth graders who “know nothing other than Timeline”.

It’s going to be the people whose mums used twitter to announce their pregnancy and whose dads first showed their baby pics on Facebook. They won’t remember first encountering the internet, it will just have been around their entire life.

A thought on the Granny Tax

There has been much said about the so-called Granny Tax.

But all the commentators I’ve read have failed to mention is that there was already a ticking time-bomb with age related allowances.

Currently, the age related personal allowances kick in at the same time a man can get their state pension – currently 65. However, that state pension age is not fixed, and will gradually start to rise in a few years time. If it’s your 58th birthday today (22nd March) you will reach the state pension age on the 6th September 2019, when you are 65 years, 5 months and 15 days old.

So would you have got the age related allowance for nearly 6 months when you were working? Or would you have had to wait for state retirement age?

Both options would have been messy for calculating tax. And both options would have had some inherent unfairness.

It was probably sensible for the chancellor to announce something sooner rather then later, but whether this was the right option is an entirely different question.

On the other hand, if you are a women in your forties, your state pension age has increased several times over your working life. And the date you can start to receive private pensions – where you invested your own money – has also increased.

Jane Austen, on blogging

Jane Austen didn’t actually predict the rise of the internet and blogging. However I was struck by the following discription of letter writing, from her novella Catherine:

‘Why indeed, Mrs Percival,’ said Mrs Stanley, ‘I must think that Catharine’s affection for her bower is the effect of a sensibility that does her credit. I love to see a friendship between young persons and always consider it as a sure mark of an amiable affectionate disposition. I have from Camilla’s infancy taught her to think the same, and have taken great pains to introduce her to young people of her own age who were likely to be worthy of her regard. Nothing forms the taste more than sensible and elegant letters–. Lady Halifax thinks just like me–. Camilla corresponds with her daughters, and I believe I may venture to say that they are none of them the worse for it.’

These days, the equivalent is blogging, effectively a letter broadcast on computers

These ideas were too modern to suit Mrs Percival who considered a correspondence between girls as productive of no good, and as the frequent origin of imprudence and error by the effect of pernicious advice and bad example. She could not therefore refrain from saying that for her part, she had lived fifty years in the world without having ever had a correspondent, and did not find herself at all the less respectable for it–.

I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who has encountered the attitude of “why write a blog?” When I was first telling people about the Stop HS2 blog, quite a number of people couldn’t see the point – and yet it is a vital part of the campaign.

Mrs Stanley could say nothing in answer to this, but her daughter who was less governed by propriety, said in her thoughtless way, ‘But who knows what you might have been, ma’am, if you had had a correspondent; perhaps it would have made you quite a different creature. I declare I would not be without those I have for all the world. It is the greatest delight of my life, and you cannot think how much their letters have formed my taste as Mama says, for I hear from them generally every week.’

‘You received a letter from Augusta Barlow to day, did not you, my love’ said her mother–. ‘She writes remarkably well I know.’

‘Oh! Yes ma’am, the most delightful letter you ever heard of. She sends me a long account of the new Regency walking dress Lady Susan has given her, and it is so beautiful that I am quite dying with envy for it.’

Fashion blogs. Need I say more!

‘Well, I am prodigiously happy to hear such pleasing news of my young friend; I have a high regard for Augusta, and most sincerely partake in the general joy on the occasion. But does she say nothing else? it seemed to be a long letter–Are they to be at Scarborough?’

‘Oh! Lord, she never once mentions it, now I recollect it; and I entirely forgot to ask her when I wrote last. She says nothing indeed except about the Regency.’ ‘She must write well’ thought Kitty, to make a long letter upon a bonnet and pelisse.’

Actually I’m more partial to the craft blog

Turbalance Ahead

Seth Godwin recently published a post about Unexpected Turbulence

It’s hard to summarise a post that’s only four sentences long, but the final sentence struck me as being very relevant to the HS2 proposal:

If your plan will only succeed if there is no turbulence at any time, it’s probably not a very good plan (either that or you’re not going anywhere interesting.)

Unfortunately, the HS2 proposal was originally dependent on very high levels of growth, higher then any other industry prediction. Eventually HS2 Ltd reduced the growth rate, but simply extended the forecast period – which was already longer then would normally be used in forecasting – until they got to the magic ‘doubling of passenger numbers’ that they needed to make HS2 a proposal that would not be rejected out of hand.

Things I wrote

During 2011, Stop HS2 made a number of submissions to various inquiries as well as producing numerous leaflets. Although I didn’t write everything we published (although at times it felt like it!), the following three reports were written by me.

Transport Select Committee Inquiry into HS2:
Stop HS2 TSC Submission May 2011

Labour Party Policy review:
Stop HS2 submission Labour transport review

London Assembly Transport Review:
Stop HS2 submission London Assembly July 2011

They were proofread by others of course and a number of people made suggestions about topics that needed to be added, or removed. But as to the actual words on paper, it was my own work.

Grand plans and utopian visions

This was originally posted on Stop HS2 on 15th November.

“We should look sceptically at grand plans and utopian visions” said David Cameron at the Lord Mayor’s banquet last night.

Although David Cameron was talking about Europe, he should also use this scepticism when he looks at HS2.

We are often told that the Europeans embrace high speed rail, and that we should welcome it with the same fervour.  In reality, there is a growing opposition to high speed rail from ordinary people: in the Susa Valley project in Italy, in Stuttgart, and elsewhere.

In Britain, we do have high speed railways: the West Coast Main Line, the East Coast Main line and the Great Western Line are all high speed railways, according to European definitions.  We should celebrate them, rather then allow politicians to denigrate what we have.

There are serious high level concerns in Europe about the cost of high speed rail – for instance, earlier this year the finances of the Dutch high speed company were discussed in the Netherlands Parliament, because of the parlous state of the company’s finances.  (The company is 95% state owned.)

If HS2 went ahead, we would spend more per kilometre on this high speed railway then any other country in the world, but the relative saving will be significantly less.  It takes less time to get to our large cities from London then from other European capitals to their regional cities. If others are questioning the cost of their lines, shouldn’t we be concerned about the cost of ours?

Here at Stop HS2, we hope that David Cameron holds true to his intention to look sceptically at “grand plans and utopian visions”.  And we hope he starts with HS2.


Penny’s being doing internet stuff since 1993. She was a founder member of Stop HS2 and now runs the Stop HS2 website.

Penny can also be found on Twitter and Pinterest.

About Us

Stop HS2 is the national grassroots campaign against HS2, the proposed new High Speed Two railway. We formed after several months of studying the HS2 proposals in depth.

Our mission is

  • To Stop High Speed Two by persuading the Government to scrap the HS2 proposal.
  • To facilitiate local and national campaiging against High Speed Two.


Our supporters come from a wide range of backgrounds and from across the political spectrum.  Over 108,000 people signed our original petition, which we took to Downing Street in October 2011, on the day of a House of Commons debate on HS2.


Stop HS2 supporters work with a variety of international, national and local groups and individuals, with the intention of getting HS2 cancelled.


Our aim is to be inclusive and empowering.   We actively encourage individuals and groups to campaign against HS2 in a variety of ways.  These have included staging alternative consultation events, releasing a music single, delivering an advent calendar to Chequers, information stalls, setting up action groups, participation in academic and other conferences, discussing common features and strategies with relevant trans-European groups, baking cakes, walks, including the entire route, quiz nights and making films about HS2.


On a national level Stop HS2 has attended Party Conferences, organised lobby Days and demonstrations outside Parliament, a National Convention, the national ‘Beacon’ lighting event, submitting to reviews and consultations, appearing in front of the Transport Select Committee,  as well as getting significant levels of press coverage…




Stop HS2 is a campaigning  organisation.  As such, we are not eligible for charitable status.  We have a board of directors, which provides guidance and agrees strategy and an Annual General Meeting.


We also have regular meetings with other campaigners against HS2, including with Agahst (Action Groups Against High Speed Two).  Many of our supporters are active in their local Action Group.


Stop HS2’s Chair and Social Media Director is Penny Gaines.  Our Campaign Manager is Joe Rukin.  Our Treasurer is Roger Waller.


We rely on donations from our supporters to fund our work.   Maintaining the level of profile Stop HS2 has achieved costs money so, if you agree with our aim and are thankful for what we are doing, please consider donating direct to Stop HS2.


For information on how to register a local action group with Stop HS2 and on the use of the Stop HS2 logo, please see here. [Link to Terms and Conditions])


Please keep up with the national campaign on this website,  Twitter, Faceboook and Youtube, and through our mailing list.

“Saying a few words” – tips for public speaking

A few weeks ago, I was invited to “say a few words” at a meeting chaired by Seb Berry, a former LibDem councillor, with Nigel Farrage, the UKIP leader as the main speaker.

The event was on Friday and over the weekend I compiled a short list of a few tips I’ve picked up on public speaking.

  • Make notes and practise what you are going to say beforehand – lots.  But don’t  read it word for word, it may end up like a monotone. It takes practise to read a speech aloud well, and for most people the precise words used don’t matter that much.
  • It is worth being word perfect on the start of your speech and the end. Knowing exactly what you are about to say helps with any nerves you will be feeling: and practising the end enables you to finish without petering out.
  • Also, you may find you need to make last minute changes.  On Friday, we were asked to make our speeches shorter then originally planned: a speech which took seven minutes at home now needed to be reduced to no more then 4 minutes.    I changed the order round: not have been possible if it had been written out word for word.  (Even David Cameron made a note on his speech for the 2011 Lord Mayor’s banquet moments before he gave it.)
  • Allow for spontenaety.  On Friday the Now Show, the Radio 4 comedy program, talked about the campaign against HS2.  So I included a mention in my speech.
  • Knowing how to project your voice without a microphone can save you stress.  There will often be one available, but on Friday it was be broken.  Being able to speak without one – the venue was the size of a school hall, so not massive – made life a whole lot easier for the organisers and me.
  • Remember the audience is on your side.  They want the speaker to do well, and they will forgive a few mistakes and fluffed up lines.

Final thought: if you are a blogger, you’ll be thinking about your topic anyway. So why not practise bits of it for a speech, even if you haven’t got one planned?

Often at events like this, speakers compare what we are going to say.  One event I spoke at before, two of us would have covered the same aspics of the topic: I rewrote my speech from scratch in the ten minutes before I was due to give it.  The mini practises were what enabled me to make a reasonable speech.

Challange groups – all men

86. Following its establishment in 2009, HS2 Ltd established three challenge panels
(strategic, technical and analytical) “to provide independent expert scrutiny on different
elements of [its] work.” These panels continue to meet. Of the three groups, currently
comprising 22 people (all men), only the Analytical Challenge Panel contains any evident
critic of high-speed rail. The Strategic Challenge Panel comprises eight transport and local
government experts who are almost all publicly supportive of high-speed rail, including the
Director of Yes to HS2, the Director of Greengauge 21 and the Chairman of Network
Rail.211 Mr Hammond said that the details of the challenge panels were a matter for HS2
Ltd but he thought they had “worked well”.212


TSC review of HSR doc