Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Heathrow expansion runs into the long grass



The current administration is doing a very good job of a swan impression. Above the surface it is all sweetness and light and peaceful serenity: no public clashes between Inners and Outers to speak of, a unified cabinet and party behind it, popular measures easing through Parliament, and so on. Below the surface there is an awful lot of swimming going on. Last week the papers were full of hints that the final final decision on Heathrow expansion was about to be announced. 

As the nation as a whole breathed a sigh of relief, the plotters set out their stall. Zac Goldsmith, whose political career ground to a shuddering halt after his woeful performance during the London mayoralty election campaign, threatened to derail the Conservative government by doing a David Davis. George Osborne popped up to say that it should be Heathrow or nothing, because if it isn't Heathrow and Heathrow only, then nothing will ever get built. George Osborne's constituency is, of course, 200 miles away. Meanwhile Stansted got in on the action to say hey, if you let Gatwick build something then we want something too.

This is the problem with a pluralist democracy, and a huge problem when the government has a tiny theoretical majority but the governing party is fractured along many, many lines. There are plenty of local issues competing with national ones. Too many compromises were made at the last couple of elections, and neither main party can claim any unity on the airports issue. There is probably a majority in Parliament for Heathrow, but to get it through without the support of the local Tory MPs would be grist to the mill. If only we could be more French...

The Capitalists' preferred answer is to say yes to everyone. Allow Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and even Birmingham to proceed with expansion plans if they want to. Allow each to beef up its transport links, but only at its own expense. Let competition rule the day: only the most plausible and efficient project will be funded by investors. Governments are rubbish at deciding these things, because they have so many competing interests.

Or is Theresa May's government playing a longer game? Will her actual policy be put in the Tories' next manifesto, giving her a proper mandate to crack on after a general election? That is my working theory on Grammar schools, so why not airports as well? Win the argument, lose the vote, call an election, win big with a policy agenda that could not be clearer. Or is that too cynical?

18 comments:

Electro-Kevin said...

She certainly talks the talk.

The Calais 'child' migrant fiasco will be an early opportunity for Ms May to prove her intent. Clearly we are having the piss taken out of us for when we were told we were taking vulnerable children we did not expect to see 25-year-old men clambering onto the mini buses.

If she doesn't dig into this issue then she's not changed her ways and I'm not voting for her.

(Will some of those men be going to school with REAL children ???)

Steven_L said...

Allow each to beef up its transport links, but only at its own expense.

Wouldn't they all need the government to assist with compulsory purchase to enable this?

They just need to grow some cojones and get on with Heathrow expansion, the SNP have indicated they will vote in favour. Affected constituents are a very small minority and the tories have a once in a lifetime chance to win back seats in the north of England through Brexit.

Steven_L said...

In fact the SNP might have made a blunder here. They made a big thing before the Scottish referendum and the General Election about not siding with / sharing a platform with the tories.

They've now gone and put it on record that Heathrow will benefit Scotland, and that they support it. The SNP voting with the tories is something labour in Scotland can make a big issue about. This could help more Scots constituencies become 3 way competitions.

Given the increased tory support here these days, if they make not allowing another Scots referendum a red line it should firm up the unionist vote further in their favour.

patently said...

Is it possible to be too cynical when it comes to matters of politics?

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Blue Eyes said...

OK chaps, we at C@W are pretty laid back generally but we do not appreciate the anti-Islam comments. We welcome readers of all faiths and none. There are plenty of other places on the internet to massage your unpleasant views. Furthermore, airport expansion appears to have approximately nothing to do with your paranoid caliphate conspiracies.

Go away.

Red Steer said...

The reason immigration has large centres around airports is the housing is generally cheaper around the airports, due to the noise. While manual and low skilled, anti-social hour jobs are plentiful.

Its not an Islamic event. Its simple capitalism. No one wants to live or work under a flightpath if they can avoid it.

Electro-Kevin said...

Good editing, Blue. I've no time for it either.

Thud said...

I'd prefer to read all views.

rwendland said...

The problem with the "Capitalists' preferred answer" is that the externality of badly annoying people under the flight path is not charged for. I once had the misfortune of spending a couple of hours in the garden of a Fulham house, and the planes landing at Heathrow flying over every minute or two became absolutely infuriating.

If planes landing or taking off had to pay a fee or tax of about 0.1p per every person distracted by the noise we might have a much more rational airport policy! (a million people * 0.1p is £1000 - 60 planes an hour annoying a single individual is 6p per hour, a pretty low charge for this horrible externality.)

patently said...

It's not charged for as such, but the airlines pay a landing fee per aircraft, and the airport pays a licence fee to HMG that is funded from the landing fees (and other income). Meanwhile, the irritated residents receive the benefit of lower housing costs.

Where this fails is when the use pattern changes - such as if night flights are permitted. Then there is an argument for compensating the local residents.

rwendland said...

I'd like a system of fees/tax where more is charged if you annoy more people with noise distraction. So airport operators/airlines are strongly incentivised to position airports or flight paths away from people. Your point about night flying is good - the fee should differ according to time of day. Noise level of plane also obviously.

On reflection my rough 0.1p/person suggestion seems far too low, perhaps 0.25p/person is better: 15p/hour for 60 flights/hour right over your head - or ~£2500 for one plane distracting a million people (£10-ish per passenger). That sounds like enough to influence airport/flight path positioning without being unaffordable.

CityUnslicker said...

rwendland - why did people choose to buy houses in Fulham then - it is not like Heathrow is a new thing?

Tey did it because for them the cost/benefit worked out. The only concern should be, if like night flying, the situation is altered long-term.

New heathrow will likely have little real impact as the newer planes are quieter and the pollution is terrible anyway - already in the cost/benefit of people living there.

I grew up near heathrow so know all about the effects, I feel very so what about the whole thing.

adham said...



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adham said...


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شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
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adham said...


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