Boris Johnson is right to cling to Thames airport plan

Morning View
Morning View

David Cameron is going to have massive difficulty approving the commission recommendation to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Senior Conservatives, including the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, have London constituencies, where there are pollution concerns.

Zac Goldsmith, who is shaping up as a leading Tory contender for Mayor of London, has threatened to quit his Richmond seat if Heathrow is expanded.

The man he is trying to succeed as mayor, Boris Johnson, is implacably opposed to a new Heathrow runway.

Some observers believe that it will be legally difficult to reject the commission findings, given how comprehensive they are. If this is so, then it is a sad day for Britain, for political courage, and for democracy. Populism in politics is rampant, in Stormont and further afield, with politicians hiding behind consultations, rather than demonstrating leadership.

The decision on London’s airport expansion has, in effect, been farmed out to committee. Mr Johnson is the politician who thought big on this problem of airport capacity with his so-called ‘Boris Island’ airport plan in the Thames Estuary.

The prospects of such a solution are slim, given that the Thames proposal was ruled out early by the commission.

It was encouraging, however, to hear Mr Johnson still pushing his plan yesterday, after the commission reported.

A Thames airport would be excellent for the UK, including Northern Ireland. Planes from the Province typically land at Heathrow from the east in any event, so they would not be travelling any further.

A huge Thames hub with 24-hour take-off and landing would rule out any fears about Northern Ireland flights losing their slots at the premier airport in London. Heathrow in the meantime could be closed and turned into upmarket housing, which London needs urgently.

Mr Johnson, the politician who runs London, has the clout to keep pushing his proposal to the end.