This week, all of the political attention has been focused on Labour’s conference in Liverpool and will soon turn to Birmingham for the Conservative Party’s annual gathering.
But elsewhere, the big Heathrow/political story appeared in the Financial Times, the Times and the Daily Telegraph with the news that Theresa May has been told that she has enough support in Parliament to win a vote on expanding Heathrow.
With a decision expected next month, the Prime Minister has been told that Heathrow would win a vote with a “slam dunk” but Ministers don’t believe Gatwick’s plan has enough support from MPs.
Rumours have been circulating that the Prime Minister would offer a free vote, meaning that members of her cabinet could vote against Heathrow without needing to resign. There are not many of them but this sidesteps the problem of how to deal with Boris Johnson and Justine Greening who might otherwise step down from the government.
We are taking nothing for granted but this is good news for everyone who supports Heathrow expansion and confirms what we had previously believed about the high levels of support for Heathrow amongst MPs in Parliament. This month, a ComRes poll showed that two-thirds of MPs support building a new runway at Heathrow making it not only politically deliverable, but politically desirable.
In other news, Heathrow has announced that it will create 5,000 new jobs over the next five years and increase the number of flights by 25,000 if it gets approval for a third runway.
The additional flights, which will include new domestic routes, will come from tweaking the schedule and taking advantage of technological improvements. Some benefits of Heathrow expansion could be delivered four years early, giving the economy a £1.5bn ‘Brexit boost’ whilst a new runway is built.
The Airports Commission recommended expansion at Heathrow as its unanimous choice after three years of independent research. When the Prime Minister and the government decide whether to accept this recommendation they can do so knowing that it will have the full backing of Parliament.