Heathrow report ‘steaming poo’ for Cameron – senior Tory
The pre-briefing on Sir Howard Davies’ report on airport capacity focused on the Gatwick caveat – we like Heathrow but Gatwick will do.
The final report is written nothing like that. More a case of: the answer is Heathrow and if you give the answer Gatwick you get a “C-” pass grade and no more.
The Airports Commission makes clear that Gatwick would be a dim and distant second option and would mean London and the UK lost out on a whole raft of commercial possibilities.
In the South-East, the Heathrow issue has been as neuralgic for the Tories as just about any other you can think of. That’s why the relentless business pressure has not resulted in a clear decision. That’s why David Cameron gave his 2009 pledge to oppose Heathrow expansion.
Here to give you a flavour of what the PM has to deal with are the first thoughts of “a senior Tory”:
“Howard Davies has dumped an utter steaming pile of poo on the prime minister’s desk.
“If I didn’t know better I would think he really doesn’t like the prime minister. He’s got a ginormous ego and I think he has strengthened the case to force the issue.”
The source went on in colourful terms but you get the idea.
Even without comments like this from senior party colleagues, David Cameron has always been acutely aware of the potency of what he calls “split screen moments” when a past pledge (like the “no ifs no buts” objection to Heathrow expansion he committed to ahead of the 2010 election) can be played out next to a wholly contradictory subsequent remark.
He knows they are particularly toxic and even though he has said he is not running for office again they can drain political capital.
The pressure is now on David Cameron to bend in the face of business opinion but he is going to try to resist it for now and keep his options open til a clearer statement (if they can come up with it) in the autumn.
Meanwhile he has to answer questions in the Commons today and his transport secretary has to field challenges from Heathrow opponents including the current Mayor of London and Zac Goldsmith, his fellow Tory MP who wants to replace him in that job (pictured, below).
Labour, shorn of Ed Miliband’s objection to Heathrow, has whipped out a statement leaning strongly towards a new Heathrow runway (Ed Balls was always pro but his leader anti). It mirrors a similar dynamic on the Tory side with David Cameron hostile and George Osborne amongst those won over by the business case.
George Osborne is said to have softened his support for Heathrow. If so, his switch will have been made more difficult too by Howard Davies strident support for his Option 1.
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