LondonUnlocked

Boris: "There can be only one reason to move her."

The Future of Heathrow, The NewsEditor

The Mayor on the shuffling of Justine Greening from the transport portfolio:

"There can be only one reason to move her – and that is to expand Heathrow airport. It is simply mad to build a new runway in the middle of west London. Nearly a third of the victims of aircraft noise in the whole of Europe live in the vicinity of Heathrow. Now it is clear the Government wants to ditch its promises and send yet more planes over central London."

Ms Greening's constituency, Putney, lies under the Heathrow flight path and she has spoken on the record about her opposition to the airport's expansion. Her move is being taken by many as confirmation that the Government is preparing for a u-turn on the issue.

However, as we suggested yesterday, there may be a more innocent reason for the move. If the Government is going to carry out an independent review of air capacity in the South East, then it may be that they want a Transport Secretary who isn't prejudiced against one of the possible outcomes as its sponsor.

Remember that:

  • the Coalition Agreement explicitly rules out Heathrow expansion as a policy for both the Tories and Lib Dems
  • supporting expansion would be electoral suicide for Conservative and Lib Dem MPs under the flight path
  • Justine Greening would likely still resign from Cabinet should expansion become Government policy
  • It's unclear that the Labour Party would lend their support to a third runway
  • Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith has threatened to force a by-election in his marginal seat over the issue

...all of which make a third runway becoming Government policy very difficult. Not impossible, but very difficult.

We'll update the site as more is known on the Government's plans.

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Finally, we'd like to welcome the new Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, to the job. He has a difficult few months ahead and we wish him the best.