If there was any remaining doubt, Tony Newman demonstrated yet again today that he don’t half talk some rubbish.
Labour’s leader of Croydon Council decided to stick his two penn’orth in to the airport debate, in the midst of the Tory Government’s decision to go with a third runway at Heathrow.
“It’s clear whatever side of the argument you’re on, the only option that can realistically deliver is Gatwick,” Newman said.
Except that is not the case, because those people on the Heathrow “side of the argument”, as Newman puts it, suggest that Heathrow is the only option that can realistically deliver. Clearly.
Newman’s entry to this debate was not only the clumsy rhetoric of a small-town politician who was out of his depth, but he also managed to associate Croydon’s council with unquestioning support for Gatwick for the wrong reasons.
“Gatwick’s expansion could have meant economic growth, jobs and skills for Croydon and south London,” Newman said. Which might be regarded as a “nice to have”, but it manages to overlook the powerful environmental arguments against Heathrow expansion, as well as the damage which any new Gatwick runway could also cause.Because barely whispered among Croydon’s Progress-dominated Labour leadership and its unwavering support for Gatwick expansion is the role of Sarah Jones, the chair of Croydon Central CLP.
Before she threw herself in full-time as the parliamentary candidate in the 2015 General Election, Jones had been working in a senior role in the public relations team for… Gatwick Airport.
So what we are subjected to locally on this issue suffers from more spin that the propellers on the flights which used to take off from the old Croydon Aerodrome.
With barely mentioned vested interests such as this among some of our elected, and unelected, politicians, how are the public able to trust their judgements and pronouncements on significant issues such as airport expansion?
Once Newman got away from making clearly unsustainable statements today, he then turned to his role as a soothsayer. “Heathrow will be mired in consultations and judicial reviews for decades to come and will never happen,” Nostradamus Newman predicted, adopting a line in which he is in agreement with none other than former London Mayor, now Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.
“We have been here before and we are going to see an inevitable fight in the courts and I think the chances of success for the proponents of the third runway are not high,” Johnson said. “I think it very likely it will be stopped.”
And on that point, there is plenty of evidence that unlikely bedfellows Newman and Johnson could be proven right.
Airport expansion in London and the south-east has been a live political issue since a third runway at Heathrow was given approval by the Bliar government in 2003; the case for Heathrow’s third runway was first lost in the law courts six years ago; and it is three long years now since Sir Howard Davies’s government commission delivered its interim report recommending Heathrow.
That the choice of Heathrow now has the support of No10 was a step too far today for Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond Park, who in this respect at least was as good as his word by announcing that he will resign his parliamentary seat and trigger a by-election on the matter. After all, David Cameron, in his brief green phase, committed the Tories to abandoning the third runway if they won the 2010 election.
Goldsmith reckons that 1 million people “will directly suffer because of the environmental harm this project unavoidably produces”. That could prove to be an under-estimate. The Heathrow decision will be a “constant source of anger and betrayal”, Goldsmith said, joining a growing number of politicians and observers who believe that if Brexit doesn’t bring down this disaster-prone Tory Government, then Heathrow might provide the straw to break the back of Theresa May’s cabinet.It was the man who beat Goldsmith to become Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who in his reactions crystalised what is really the most important issues surrounding the Gatwick-Heathrow choice.
“I’m in favour of a new runway at Gatwick Airport and the reasons are very obvious,” Khan said on the BBC’s lunchtime news.
“The air quality in London currently is a killer, around Heathrow Airport is breaches air quality limits for NO2, there are more people affected by noise as a consequence of Heathrow than the combined airport of Paris, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid added together.
“This is the wrong decision for London and the whole of Britain. The government is riding roughshod over Londoners’ views.”
And meanwhile, on the subject of the killer air quality in Croydon, Councillor Newman remains steadfastly inactive.
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