Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Heathrow runway u-turn ahead?

The signs look ominous. Senior Ministers saying they can't "bind their hands" for the future and welcome lobbying in favour of it and senior back-benchers publicly warning that the third runway is some kind of virility test for the Prime Minister - is he a man or a mouse they ask?

We're about two and a half years away from a General Election and it seems very much like the vexed issue of a third runway for Heathrow is set to be a local political theme that dominates our choice of MP when it comes. Our current one, Andy Slaughter, resigned from the last Government when it decided to support the new runway and in so doing ended his Ministerial career, but kept his parliamentary one. 

Neighbouring MP Conservative Greg Hands is vulnerable on the issue, his constituency being even more under the flight paths than this one, only as far as it would be quite embarrassing. He is a Whip which means his job is to ensure the Government's business gets done and they don't lose any votes, so he would in theory be part of a Government performing a u-turn and delivering a reduction in quality of life to his constituents. 

But his is a rock-solid Tory seat so he doesn't have to resign if he doesn't want to. 

Our Council, and those of surrounding boroughs, are uniformly against the plan with many backing the Prime Minister in Waiting's alternative proposal of an airport in the Thames Estuary, the so-called "Boris Island".

The problem for them however is that Boris' backing for the option, following his eclipsing of the Prime Minister during the Olympics and rude calls for Cameron to "stop pussyfooting around" almost certainly ensure it will never happen while Cameron rules the roost.

And even within H&F Council there are cracks, with leading councillor Harry Phibbs leaving the door very much ajar when he spoke to me in March this year:

Great news! But, hang on, what's this...


Susana Mendonça completes this BBC piece with an interview with Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative representing Richmond Park, who seems to think that there won't be anything in the next Tory manifesto that rules in a third runway but nothing that rules it out either. In that case he'd never stand as a Tory again he says proudly.

So where does this pantomime leave the ordinary person, for whom this decision will directly affect their quality of life? Nowheresville it seems. Is it any wonder so many people don't bother to vote anymore?


  1. I'm in favour of the third runway.

    Always lived by airports; it's not that big a deal. I seriously doubt that anyone complaining purchased their house prior to the late 1920's and the creation of the airfield.

  2. I live just off the Uxbridge Road; I used to live just off the Goldhawk Road. In neither place have I (or my family) found aeroplane noise intrusive. The third runway is, I suspect, a necessary stopgap on the way to a proper hub airport and I am resigned to it happening.