Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Will Economic Policy, Foreign Affairs, Health Care Reform Bring Down Britain’s Conservative Government? - No, Think Small – Think Heathrow

An Airport Runway Could Do It

[Editor’s note:  The Dismal Political Economist has no plans to fly to London during the rest of his lifetime.  He really does not care if Heathrow Airport is expanded, stays the same or turned into a shelter for wayward cats.]

The Dismal Political Economist is becoming increasingly angry at how the small things in the world are always the major issues.  In Asia foreign relationships between the U. S., China, Taiwan and Japan are all wrapped up in some tiny uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.

SEOUL — Japan’s central government has agreed to buy a group of uninhabited islands that are also claimed by China and Taiwan, Japanese media reported Wednesday, potentially increasing regional tension over the simmering territorial dispute.

In a long-discussed deal, the central government will pay the Japanese family that owns the islands 2.05 billion yen ($26.2 million) for three of the islands in the East China Sea, the reports said.

Good grief, who has time for this.

Now in England the issue of whether or not to build another runway at Heathrow Airport is threatening to destroy what remains of the Conservative coalition that is governing the country.  It seems that when the Conservatives were campaigning they promised Londoners they would not build another runway.  Now they are having second thoughts.

David Cameron said he will make an announcement on airports in the next few days, after a reshuffle raised expectations of a U-turn on Heathrow expansion.

So how can a politician go back on his promises.  Easy, here are the weasel worlds.

But he said this would not mean breaking the Conservative party’s promise not to allow Heathrow expansion during this parliament.

Ah yes, the phrase ‘during this parliament’.  Since construction could probably not begin until after a new parliament was elected under any circumstances, this pronouncement has the merit of sustaining a campaign promise while at the same time making that promise meaningless.  There is also strong opposition within the Conservative Party, particularly from the Mayor of London who threatens to take over leadership of the Party and become Prime Minister.

The Conservatives will also face opposition to a Heathrow U-turn from within their own ranks – not least from Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who has strongly criticised any plans for expansion at the west London airport.

Mr Johnson said on Wednesday morning that expansion was “a profound mistake” that would do “massive environmental damage” in west London and across the capital.

So what is going on now is the classic ‘trial balloon’.  Mr. Cameron wants to renege on his pledge, and now he is testing the waters to see just how much the political cost would be to do so.

That such a small issue would cause such upheaval is to be deplored.  If Mr. Cameron wants to go back on his pledge, why can't he repudiate his policies that have brought Britain’s economy into recession.  That is worthy of a grand political fight, and not one on such an issue of another airport runway.

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