Last week’s local elections ended up being judged a score-draw by many political commentators but for anti-Heathrow councils it was a bad night.
Richmond and Wandsworth councils have been part of a group that has spent around £1 million of taxpayers’ money campaigning against Heathrow expansion over the last few years. Whilst locally Heathrow expansion may not have been a big issue at this election, residents are showing clear signs of tiring of their representatives using taxpayers’ money to pursue their anti-growth agenda - when they could be spending the money on vital local services.
In Richmond the Conservative council has made a virtue of going against their national party and opposing Heathrow expansion. They lost a total of 28 seats and with it control of the council. The Wandsworth Conservatives did hold the borough, but they lost eight seats.
These results show that outright opposition to new jobs, apprenticeships and investment was not rewarded on election night.
The results showed that fighting a campaign against the provider of so many local jobs is no longer a required position for a prospective west London politician to get elected or re-elected. In fact, the opposite may be true with anti-expansionism showing signs of being an electoral turnoff.
We’ve already seen this trend at last year’s general election when the pro-expansion Stephen Pound, Virendra Sharma and Kwasi Kwarteng were all comfortably re-elected to Parliament with big majorities. Last week we also saw setbacks for Labour in Hillingdon and the Conservatives in Hounslow who both fought vehemently anti-Heathrow expansion campaigns.
Local politicians need to learn the lessons from these elections and respond accordingly. Polling consistently shows that residents in local boroughs back expansion. The evidence suggests that Heathrow expansion is now more likely to be a positive rather than a detriment in election campaigns. That's something that all parties need to take heed of when they campaign in an area with over 100,000 supporters of a new runway.