Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on a display of democracy in the local Labour Party which proclaims ‘we can’t be afraid of speaking against our council leadership when they are wrong’
The Constituency Labour Party of Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, has passed a motion opposing airport expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Which is a bit of an embarrassment for Tony Newman and the Croydon Labour Party, which until last week’s vote of members at Croydon Central CLP were enthusiastic cheerleaders for an extra runway at Gatwick.
And it is particularly embarrassing for MP Jones, who before she was elected to parliament had worked for… Gatwick Airport.
Indeed, since becoming an MP, Jones has continued to make the argument for Gatwick expansion, despite compelling scientific evidence which suggests that it would be a very bad thing for the planet. Such expansion also goes against a decade-long Labour Party policy.
So wedded are Croydon Labour’s leadership to development at all costs, their short-sighted arguments have claimed that all those (promised) extra jobs for Croydon trump any environmental impact and contribution to Global Warming.
The extra runway at Gatwick is the kind of business-first policy which has attracted enthusiastic support from the Conservative MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp, whose constituency is within 14 miles of the airport.
Air quality in Croydon – sitting outside London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone – is already blighted by vehicle exhaust emissions that break all environmental limits. And expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as both seem likely to go ahead, will make an already bad situation in this corner of London worse.
The Croydon Central motion, passed at a members’ meeting last week, reads, “This CLP, mindful of the fact that climate change is one of the great threats to the survival of our planet, believes there should be no expansion of air travel or airport capacity, particularly in London and the south-east, in the foreseeable future.
“Such expansion would not be in line with the UK’s climate change targets outlined in Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act or in the UK’s obligations under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“Instead policies should be directed towards development of rail travel and other low carbon or carbon-free modes of transport. There should also be policies aimed at reducing the concentration of the UK’s economy in London and the south-east and development of low-carbon economic opportunities in other regions.
“Accordingly, this CLP is opposed to the current proposals to develop a second runway at Gatwick Airport and to the plans to expand capacity at Heathrow.
“The CLP resolves to send a copy of this motion to the leadership of the Croydon Labour group, Croydon Central’s MP and the Labour National Policy Forum.”
Daniel Jones, the CLP vice-chair who tabled the motion, later described the debate as “Quite a tough discussion”.
Jones (who is not related to his MP) said, “Yes we are going against our council’s position but we can’t be afraid of speaking against our council leadership when they are wrong.
“With support for divestment and community energy, our council is moving in the right direction on these issues, but support for polluting infrastructure blows that out of the water.
“As speakers said as the party of labour we need to grow jobs and support workers move into low carbon sectors. Excited to see how a UK Green New Deal can help work this.”
As was pointed out in the CLP debate, aviation is one of the fastest growing sources emissions, and with expansion plans at two of the country’s busiest airports, could grow by up to 700 per cent by 2050.
The Tory government’s independent climate advisers, the Committee for Climate Change, has written to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, telling him that he needs to rein-in carbon emissions from the aviation industry if Britain is to meet its legally binding climate change targets.
“Aviation emissions at 2005 levels in 2050 means other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80 per cent, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero,” the committee’s letter said. “Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.”
Following the vote at the CLP, Daniel Jones said, “We need to improve our rail infrastructure and make it cheaper and more attractive to take. Look how popular the Eurostar has become, its massively cut flights from London to Paris and is so much better than flying.”
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Not entirely surprised by the vote as it is by members who will be unlikely to have to implement policy so can have such ‘ambitions’. As the former representative on the Gatwick Consultative Group representing all London Boroughs I supported expansion of Gatwick. Croydon Council’s position (as far as I know unchanged) was to support the expansion of Gatwick instead of Heathrow, though for South London benefits rather than anti-Heathrow views.. I was unpopular with certain rural groups on the panel who decided to exclude a London representative from their panel. Typical democracy in action, anyone who disagrees with them is excluded even when expressing the majority viewpoint.