Someone at some stage has to make a decision on Heathrow

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Is the Government “frit” - as Margaret Thatcher would say - about reaching a decision on a third runway for Heathrow Airport?

It would seem that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Their failure to do so last week has been variously denounced as “gutless” and “cowardly”, particularly by industrialists, and yet hailed by those who want to see Heathrow stay as it is and think Gatwick instead should be the “beneficiary” of an extra runway.

The government’s claim that it needs at least another six months to consider the environmental effects of a third Heathrow runway rings hollow with those who insist that Britain’s economy will suffer if nothing is done.

After all, this has been a burning issue for years. Someone, at some stage, has got to say yea or nay.

Many people suspect the excuse the government needs more time to assess the environmental impact of all this is merely a shameful pretence – and that Conservative Party political issues are at the heart of the problem.

Are ministers afraid that a decision – one way or another – if taken before May, could adversely affect the Tories’ prospects at local elections? It is beginning to look like it.

And Zac Goldsmith, the Conservatives’ choice for Mayor of London, has metaphorically held a gun at ministers’ heads by warning that he could resign as an MP if the Heathrow option goes ahead. And David Cameron, whose House of Commons majority is far from substantial, can ill-afford to lose an MP and be confronted with a very difficult by-election to fight.

What is more, the cabinet is also divided on the issue and at least one member, Justine Greening, International Development Secretary, has threatened to resign from office if Heathrow is the preferred choice.

That would be a huge embarrassment to the Prime Minister and an equally huge boost to Labour.

Just as well that Victorian entrepreneurs did not dither and twiddle their thumbs like this – or there would hardly have been an industrial revolution.

Labour Party women are in the news - for both good and questionable reasons.

The good news is that Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons put in a stellar performance against Chancellor George Osborne, standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s question time.

Osborne seemed taken aback by this sprightly performer, whose quick wit and general cheerful demeanour brought a few much-needed smiles even to the normally dour and glowering Opposition front bench.

But the other item is not so happy. It is reported that Diane Abbott, the formidable shadow International Development Secretary, is wanting to oust Rosie Winterton from the key post of Opposition chief whip.

Needless to say, Abbott fiercely denies the report, it being added on her behalf that she is very happy in her present post.

The job of Opposition chief whip is the only one on the Opposition side - apart from the leader himself - which attracts a top-up of public money to the normal parliamentary salary.

Those hordes of intolerant British students who try to ban people with whose views they disagree should take note of the case of Michael Overd, a Christian street preacher in Taunton.

He has just won an appeal against a public order conviction of delivering homophobic sermons. Overd plainly has non-politically correct views about homosexuality, but should be allowed to express them without being dragged to the courts.

So should people like Donald Trump - how on earth banning him from Britain, as some people would, can change his views, I cannot fathom.

All this shows is that legislation on phobias like sexism and racism, merely serves to shut people up for saying things which it is claimed could offend other people.

Overd hit the nail on the head when he said after his appeal succeeded: “The highly politicised dogma of ‘phobias’ now too often results in trumped up charges and legal action. There is a chilling effect. Reasonable, law-abiding people now feel that they can’t say certain things and that is dangerous. Totalitarian regimes develop when ordinary people feel that there are certain things that can’t be said.”

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a quotation wrongly attributed to Voltaire. But it is no less powerful for all that.

It seems to have slipped the Prime Minister’s mind that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ - and is not supposed to be about him.

Yet, his Christmas card this year seems to have little to do with Christmas and more about me, me, me - and is boring to boot.

It shows a posed picture of David Cameron, alongside his wife Samantha, at the door of 10 Downing Street after his victory at the general election last May.

It was, I think, Harold Wilson who started this habit of putting his own photograph on his Christmas card, a vain thing to do which some of his successors have unwisely emulated.

Cameron would have done far better to send one of his minions (perhaps the diminutive Cabinet Office Minister) down to Tesco to purchase some traditional cards for him to send out. That would be a great improvement on his present exercise in vanity.

Shakespeare memorably wrote: “There is nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.” David Cameron obviously