Voters to make Labour MPs pay on Heathrow expansion

4.1.2009   (Sunday Times)


LABOUR faces losing four out of six marginal seats to the Tories in west London
following the controversy surrounding the expansion of Heathrow.

Among those who would lose their seat are Ann Keen, the health minister and MP
for Brentford and Isleworth.

An ICM poll commissioned by Greenpeace revealed a 4.4% swing to the Tories if
a general election were called around now. About 23% of voters in the six seats
said they would be even less likely to back Labour if the government approves
plans to build a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.

The poll, carried out on December 17, underlines the extent of public hostility
to the proposed expansion among residents living under the airport’s flight path
— even though they would be likely to benefit from new jobs.  


The decision on whether to build a third runway – which would see the number
of flights increase from 480,000 to 700,000 a year – is due to be taken by Geoff
Hoon, the transport secretary, by the end of the month. The issue has divided
the cabinet and it is likely to become one of the most divisive political issues
in what may be an election year.

Critics say ministerial approval for Heathrow expansion would make a mockery
of the government’s green credentials and condemn west London to illegal levels
of air and noise pollution.