Back Heathrow supporter number doubts after Zac Goldsmith sent supporter email

Some doubt has been cast on the validity of “Back Heathrow” after it emerged that anti-expansion campaigners were sent emails thanking them for their support for “Back Heathrow.” Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond and north Kingston, was among those to receive an email  thanking him for supporting the campaign, despite being well known for his strong opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway. It would appear that someone has mischievously signed Zac up to the Back Heathrow website, without his knowledge or consent. It appears that other people (unconfirmed) in neighbouring boroughs have also had a letter from Back Heathrow, thanking them for their support, and this could amount to a “manipulation of data”. Back Heathrow has used deliberate scare tactics, to make people afraid of losing their jobs if there is no new runway. Zac said there are concerns that the supporter figures claimed by Back Heathrow need to be treated with caution, if there may be names on the list that should not be there. Back Heathrow said it was confident its system was not abused for bogus sign-ups and believed its supporter numbers were genuine. There are concerns that Heathrow may have been getting large numbers of its own employees to sign up, to back the runway, which would benefit HAL (Heathrow Airport Ltd) itself.



Back Heathrow campaign number doubts as opponents sent supporter emails

Pro-Heathrow expansion campaigners celebrated clocking up 80,000 supporters outside Parliament on Tuesday

6 February 2015 (Richmond and Twickenham Times)

Pro-Heathrow expansion campaigners celebrated clocking up 80,000 supporters outside Parliament on Tuesday
Fresh doubt has been cast on the validity of Back Heathrow after anti-expansion campaigners were sent emails thanking them for their support.

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond and north Kingston, was among those to receive an email this week, despite publicly showing his opposition to expansion at Heathrow and not signing up in support.

The email sent read: “Zac, Thank you for signing our petition to back Heathrow. Every extra signature makes our voice that much more powerful.

“With over 100,000 jobs at stake, securing a healthy future for Heathrow Airport is crucial. So please share our petition with others who may want to sign: =87201. Best wishes, Rob Gray, Back Heathrow campaign.”

Other people in Richmond and neighbouring boroughs also claimed they received a letter from Mr Gray, and said it was an “outrageous distortion” and “manipulation of data”.

Mr Goldsmith said: “We know that the only reason Heathrow has been able claim to have majority support for expansion in west London is because its surveys and polls have been ludicrously leading, and residents are aware that its front group Back Heathrow has used similarly underhand tactics to gather support.

“But this note from Back Heathrow to me is final confirmation that the supporter figures it cites need to be taken with a giant pinch of salt.”

Back Heathrow said the false sign ups were “clearly a bit of mischief making” and “part of a wider campaign against Back Heathrow”.

The pro-expansion group said it had 80,000 supporters in areas around Heathrow, but declined to tell this newspaper exactly how many lived in Richmond and said it did not record how many supporters worked at the airport.

Mr Gray said: “Someone has chosen to make mischief by signing Zac Goldsmith up to Back Heathrow at the end of the Airports Commission public consultation using his publicly available details.

“As soon as we were alerted to this by Mr Goldsmith after he received an email verification, this information was immediately removed from our database.

“It is an insult to our 80,000 supporters for anyone to suggest some of them don’t exist, but it is sadly typical of the desperate accusations that opponents of expansion now make.

“There is majority support for expansion in the boroughs around Heathrow – our 80,000 supporters provide a vivid demonstration of this.”

Back Heathrow said it was confident its system was not abused for bogus sign-ups and believed its supporter numbers were genuine.

Campaign group Back Off Heathrow (BoH), set up by a Richmond resident, also expressed dismay at the pro-expansion group repeatedly urging airport employees to sign up to their campaign.

A BoH spokesman said: “It doesn’t seem very natural to urge their vast army of employees to sign up to a cause that would benefit the company itself.

“The supporters’ sign up page asks for an address.

“Do they include all sign ups in their 80,000 supporter number, or just those living within a certain distance?”

Heathrow also found itself in a spot of bother this week after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled one of its adverts was misleading.

The advert made the claim that direct flights to long haul destinations built 20 times more trade than indirect flights, which could not be proved.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, said: “There is no excuse for a company the size of Heathrow, able to afford expensive lawyers, to mislead in this way.

“Let’s argue the case for and against the third runway on the facts.”



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HACAN accuses Heathrow of abusing the Airports Commission consultation process, by swamping it with pro-forma responses

HACAN has accused Heathrow Airport of abusing the Airport Commission’s current consultation – which closes on February 3rd – by “flooding the Commission with thousands of pro-forma responses.” In a letter to Sir Howard Davies, John Stewart says that Heathrow has “strained every sinew of its advertising budget to try to persuade as many people as possible to email or write to the Commission that they want a 3rd runway.” However, in its consultation the Commission asked for comments on whether it had correctly assessed the proposals put forward for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and a 2nd runway at Gatwick, and whether information had been omitted. “This was a technical consultation. What the Commission was not looking for was a flood of responses for or against a third runway. While most of the campaign groups have stuck to making the arguments, (having spent hours reading through the extensive documentation), Heathrow, together with its sidekick Back Heathrow, have engaged in an orgy of activity. Yet Heathrow even went as far as placing post boxes in its terminals for passengers to pop in their letters of support. It is simply a side-show to the serious work the Commission is undertaking”. Gatwick has behaved in a similar manner.

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Advertising Standards Authority finds Heathrow advert about increased trade breaches their Code and is ‘misleading’

In October 2014 about 13 people send in official complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, on claims being made by Heathrow in its adverts. The ASA looked at 7 different complaints, and considered that 6 passed their standards. However, on the claim by Heathrow in its ads headed:”Expand Heathrow and its’s the economy that takes off” the statement “Direct flights to long-haul destinations build twenty times more trade with them than indirect flights” was found to breach the ASA code. The ASA say the claim was not adequately substantiated and that the ad therefore breached the Code, both by being misleading and by not having proper substantiation. The ASA say the advert “must not appear again in its current form.” They have told Heathrow “to ensure that they held robust substantiation for absolute claims made in their future advertising.” The ASA ruling also says the claim was presented as objective facts rather than an educated assumption and that Heathrow’s own report “One Hub or None”itself cautioned that direct flights would not automatically lead to more trade and that multiple factors could influence the amount of bilateral trade.

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