Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to a Heathrow runway likely to lead to internal Labour party disputes
Jeremy Corbyn – who might become leader of the Labour party – has come out against a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The Labour leadership favourite has indicated in an interview with the FT that under him, the party would not support expansion at Heathrow. He said: “I think the third runway is a problem for noise pollution and so on across west London…I also think there is an under-usage of the other airports around London. I’d vote against it in this parliament.” If he does become leader (decision on 12th September) this would represent a U-turn from the party’s current stance of supporting the runway, if certain conditions are met. Corbyn’s opposition to a Heathrow runway will have an impact on the London mayoral race, as two Labour candidates are in favour of it, and two against. Tessa Jowell, the favourite to win the nomination, would find herself at odds with her party’s leadership on Heathrow. There are also plenty of moderates in the party who would also rebel against Corbyn. But airports are purely a lobbying issue for mayoral candidates — they have no actual power over the decision. It is not yet known if there will be a parliamentary vote on a runway, though it will require a lot of public funding (directly and indirectly for years). David Cameron will decide by November whether to accept the Airports Commission recommendation of Heathrow, and if Labour now votes against it, that could fatally undermine the project.
Jeremy Corbyn signals the return of Labour’s Heathrow wars
24 August 2015
By Sebastian Payne
Quelle surprise, Jeremy Corbyn has come out against a third runway at Heathrow. The Labour leadership favourite has indicated in an interview with the FT that under him, the party would not support expansion at Heathrow:
‘I think the third runway is a problem for noise pollution and so on across west London…I also think there is an under-usage of the other airports around London. I’d vote against it in this parliament.’
Assuming that the bookies and pollsters are correct and Corbyn is elected leader on September 12, this would represent a U-turn from the party’s current stance. Following the release the Airports Commission’s report in July, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the party would back the proposals, under the right conditions:
‘We will scrutinise the Airports Commission’s final report carefully. If the recommendation can meet a number of tests, including consistency with our climate change obligations, we will take a swift decision to back Sir Howard Davies’ proposals.’
Corbyn’s U-turn will have an impact on the London mayoral race. The Labour candidates are split on the issue of airport expansion: Tessa Jowell and David Lammy are pro-Heathrow, while Sadiq Khan and Christian Wolmar are against. Jowell, who remains the favourite to win the nomination, would find herself at odds with her party’s leadership on Heathrow. There are also plenty of moderates in the party who would also rebel against Corbyn.
Khan, like Corbyn, is not from the Blairite wing of the party and is well posted to pickup on the Corbynmania — how many of the new thousands of new members will be backing arch Blairite Jowell? At Corbyn’s rally in Islington last week, his team were out in force to distribute leaflets to those queuing for entry. Judging by the response of those present though, he has a way to go to convince these people.
But airports are purely a lobbying issue for mayoral candidates — they have no actual power over the decision. Heathrow will be a central issue in the 2016 race and if Labour selects a candidate who is pro-expansion to go up against Zac Goldsmith, you can be certain that the Tories will maximise the opportunity and turn the election into a referendum on a third runway. And Labour will find itself split on the issue all over again.
When Heathrow will come to ahead is uncertain. Decisions still need to be taken before the end of this year on which solution the government will back and how it will consult MPs. Coffee House understands that the government has yet to decide whether it will back a sole Heathrow expansion or involve Gatwick, and whether there’ll be a Commons vote.
There remains a possibility that the House will have its say in some form, but as the Times reported in July, a free vote looks unlikely. Building a third runway doesn’t strictly require approval from the Commons as it won’t be using public funds. Given the passionate views within all the parties, some debate on the matter will be expected and justified.
On 2nd July, the Times reported that:
“Heathrow’s chances of its expansion plans being approved by a Commons vote were given a major boost yesterday when Labour swung behind the project to give the west London airport a third runway.
As divisions among Cabinet members were aired in public, Harriet Harman revealed at prime minister’s questions that Labour would back Heathrow subject to the conditions set out in the report by Sir Howard Davies.
The government has not decided whether its eventual decision will be put to a vote. However a senior No 10 source suggested that there was little chance that MPs would be allowed a free vote on the issue if it does.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader could scupper plans for Heathrow 3rd runway
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party could scupper plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, as he has now declared his opposition to it. The three other Labour contenders, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, all support the plan to expand Heathrow. Jeremy Corbyn appears most likely to win the leadership contest. If the Conservative party needs to get a Heathrow runway approved in Parliament, he may need Labour to be behind it. When the Airports Commission issued their final report on 1st July, Labour supported a Heathrow runway and wanted a quick decision by the Government to get on with it. But now Mr Corbyn said: “A third runway at Heathrow would mean 4,000 homes demolished and 10,000 people displaced. It would cause massive increases in noise and air pollution and inflict misery on hundreds of thousands of Londoners. UK air pollution is already above EU limits, and 30,000 people are dying every year because of it”. He wants better transport links to airports, betteru se of existing capacity, and more even spread to the regions. Of the London Mayoral candidates, Tessa Jowell, Gareth Thomas and David Lammy back Heathrow, and Sadiq Khan, Christian Wolmar and Diane Abbott are against.