The government’s aviation policy can today only be described as in disarray as ministers and parties fight within themselves over the future of airport capacity in the UK. In the last couple of weeks two high profile Tories have launched scathing attacks on David Cameron for his inability to tackle the issue. On the 15th of August Boris Johnson laid out his, until now, thinly veiled career plans to become Prime Minister. Speaking in the Evening Standard Boris attacked David Cameron for “pussyfooting around” over the issue of a Thames Estuary Airport. He also revealed he is considering running as an MP after his current term as Mayor of London, something he had previously ruled out on BBC Newsnight. With Cameron’s support within the Tory party, and the country, falling as most Tory MPs think he is too liberal and ineffective Boris has seen his chance to hammer the PM and stake his claim as the rightful leader of the party should they have a bad showing at the next general election. Boris has always stated he is playing a long term game in relation to Boris Island and it is not just the present threat we must be aware of. A poor showing for the conservatives in the 2015 election is liable to see Boris in the position of party leader in the 2020 election (just eight years away), not because he commands universal support in the Tory party (far from it many in the party see Boris as an out of control loose cannon) but because he has popular support in the country among those who think that Boris is a bit of a laugh. Once ensconced as PM there would be nothing to stand in the way of Boris Island, as pigheaded Boris would be able to bulldoze through his plans despite any legal, planning or international environmental concerns.
Not satisfied with destroying the beauty of the Thames Estuary Boris has also revealed, in the Evening Standard 16/06/12, that he wants to see another runway built at Stansted. Apparently he will not be happy until every house in the south-east, outside of London, is under the flightpath of a major international airport.
In another attack on Cameron former environment minister Tim Yeo who is head of the Parliamentary climate change committee and was previously a high-profile opponent of the third runway at Heathrow has changed his mind about Heathrow expansion. Speaking in The Telegraph Mr Yeo said that “The Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse,”. The Telegraph stated that “Mr Yeo is among a growing number of senior Conservatives who believe that Mr Cameron should abandon the party’s opposition to a third runway.”. Despite the government policy of no new runway at Heathrow The Telegraph also reported in the same artical that “Grant Shapps, the housing minister, said last week that Britain must consider building a third runway at Heathrow if it is to remain a “great trading nation”.” and that “George Osborne, the Chancellor, is also thought to share this view.”If the part about George Osborne is to be believed this is in direct opposition to what Boris was saying only two weeks before in the Standard.
It was also reported in The Telegraph that “Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat MP who has previously spoken for the party on transport issues, said that in the “longer term” a new airport may have to be built.
Asked whether a hub airport may be required, he replied: “I think longer term, yes, and we need to look at that issue”. Are the Liberal Democrats about to deliver another betrayal of their stated policy that they will “Firmly rejecting Boris Johnson’s Thames Estuary airport”?
With Cameron under attack from all sides of the coalition it is thought that he is warming to the idea of a third Heathrow runway. However one major sticking point of a third runway is transport secretary Justine Greening who is vehemently opposed to the plan as the flightpath would affect her Putney constituency and she would rather six runways were built in the Thames Estuary with sixty planes landing an hour twenty four hours a day 365 days a year. One solution that has been mooted is to move Greening to another department in a cabinet reshuffle in September, speaking in The Independent on Saturday 25/08/12 “a senior Tory” stated “It would be bizarre to keep her [Greening] in that job when her position over aviation is now the polar opposite of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.” However speaking in an interview on the Today Program on the BBC 28/08/12 (about 2 hours 10 minutes into the program) Greening ruled out a move to another department stating “it would be difficult [to sit in a cabinet that supported third runway]”. Greening stated her opposition to a third runway was based on noise, air pollution and access issues which apparently the people of Kent and Essex should be forced to endure for the sake or her posh Putney residents. Also in the interview Greening stated that the long awaited consultation on airport capacity would begin when parliament resumes in September. However rather than calling it a consultation, that would imply people would be able to give their opinions, she described it as a “call for evidence” suggesting that the only input would be from the developers and aviation industry not from those people who’s lives stand to be irrevocably ruined by the construction of an Estuary Airport. When further pushed in the subject of a third runway Greening stated that the “process I’m about to kick off will deliver a better long term solution [than a third runway]” implying that the decisions about airport capacity and hub status for Heathrow had already been made and that the “consultation” was nothing more than a public relations exercise. Being further pushed on the issue she said that the operators of Heathrow would be able to make their case for Heathrow expansion at the call for evidence but that the position of the coalition government was one of no Heathrow expansion thus implying that evidence for third runway there will not be considered.