As the hall filled to capacity the meeting took on the air of an American presidential nominee rally, with the waving of hundreds of placards proclaiming “NOT IN THURROCK” and as the two members of Parliament (MPs) Jackie Doyle-Price and Stephen Metcalfe, Martin Potts the representative of Highways England, Cllr John Kent the Leader of Thurrock Borough Council and others took their place on stage they were subjected to a sustained chant from the public of “NO! NO! NO!, setting the scene for a lively question and answer session.
Martin Potts who has at previous public meetings spoken with the confident air of a man who firmly believes in the rightness of his cause, appeared distinctly uncomfortable at this meeting and at times stumbled during his presentation and when replying to questions. His task was not made easier by problems with microphones and that the public made it very clear they were completely disinterested in his presentation and only wanted answers to their questions. I doubt he was surprised at the strength of the opposition to a crossing in Thurrock, but he may have been intimidated by the huge number of people who turned out to voice their opposition in no uncertain terms and to make it abundantly clear to him and the two MPs that NO means NO.
As for the two MPs, I was reminded of the “good cop bad cop” scenario often portrayed on TV dramas, no prizes for guessing which of the two the “bad cop” was.
Mr Metcalfe’s stand seems to be, whilst he agrees with Ms Doyle-Price that it was more than likely there would be a crossing in Thurrock he was prepared to continue to stand with the people of Thurrock in continuing to oppose such a crossing but stressed that the onus lay with the people of Thurrock to prove that Highways England’s proposals were seriously flawed and that he was prepared to look at ways, particularly cost, of producing such evidence. In other words don’t hold your breath in expectation of a victory.
Which brings me to Thurrock’s MP Jackie Doyle-Price who, despite all predictions to the contrary, has won two consecutive General Elections, 2010 and 2015 both closely contested. Love her or hate her you have to admire her tenacity. She is probably right when she says the people of Thurrock have to wake up to the reality that, like it or not there will be a Thames crossing located in Thurrock and rather than continue to “bash her head against a brick wall” by means of pointless protest meetings/demonstrations better to fight to secure the “best deal” regarding the route options still on the table, which excludes option ‘D’ which appears to be the preferred route of the people of Thurrock should a crossing in Thurrock become inevitable. In my opinion the problem Jackie has with the people and the reason why she is currently disliked is that whilst claiming to show strong leadership and facing up to having to make tough and unpopular decisions she is perceived by many to be actually relishing the prospect of the Government imposing a crossing in Thurrock and in a location of their choosing regardless of the detrimental impact such a decision would have on the lives and well-being of the people of Thurrock.
I would like to believe that the perception is wrong and that Jackie, far from rubbing the noses of her constituents in the dirt, does care about them and is prepared to stand up for them in Parliament but alas I have my doubts mainly because of what is perceived to be the dismissive and at times arrogant manner with which she has approached this issue
Finally a word about Cllr John Kent, Leader of Thurrock Borough Council and Leader of the Labour Party Councillors. He, from the outset, has been staunchly opposed to any further Thames crossing in Thurrock and due to his leadership succeeded in obtaining cross-party support for the “Not in Thurrock” campaign, which was reaffirmed at a meeting of Full Council in January 2016. He is to be congratulated for initiating this meeting and, I am sure, will be more than satisfied with the turnout and the reception given him by the public in attendance. He should be forgiven if there was a hint of self-satisfaction in the smile on his face. Of all the politicians on the platform Cllr Kent appeared the most comfortable and committed, what a difference it makes when you have the support of the public and they demonstrate it in the way they did.
Could this be the launch of a campaign to promote John Kent as the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate in 2020?