Several years and £5m of our money later, London’s part-time Mayor is still banging on about his fantasy estuary airport.

Yesterday, he had a day out to the London Borough of Hillingdon to promote the local Conservatives’ manifesto, the month before the borough elections:


Got that? No Conservative wants to close Heathrow.


No third runway and no closure, OK? After all, according to the airport’s latest employment survey [PDF] almost 9,000 inhabitants of the London Borough of Hillingdon work there, and no Council Leader in their right mind would want to destroy the jobs of so many of their constituents. Would they?

Last week’s Sunday Politics London told a very different story:

Reporter Andrew Cryan: Heathrow has never been much loved by Boris Johnson; his preference for a hub airport in the Thames Estuary is famous. But this week, the Mayor announced his plans for how he’d like to see Heathrow closed forever. A bold move, to say the least.

It’s hard to think of anything in West London which is bigger in economic terms. It’s directly responsible for over 100,000 jobs. What the Mayor’s critics say is this: There are very few examples of the mayor of a town lobbying to close one of its greatest economic assets. Instead, the Mayor would like to see something a bit like this [brandishes Gensler’s artist’s impression] – Heathrow redeveloped and turned into an entirely new suburb. On Monday, he launched his vision of how he thinks it should happen.

Boris Johnson: You’ve got a site 1,200 hectares, bigger than Kensington and Chelsea, virtually, where you could have all sorts of things – hi-tech, universities, we think about 90,000 jobs, maybe 190,000 population, tens of thousands, 80,000 new homes – fantastic opportunity for West London.

Andrew Cryan: The loss of jobs at Heathrow isn’t such a problem, according to the Leader of the Council where the airport is situated.

Ray Puddifoot, Conservative Leader of Hillingdon Council : Nothing remains the same forever. At one time there were huge elements of the population engaged in looking after horses, then somebody ups and invents the motor car. Now, what’s happened to them? They’re doing something else now, aren’t they? [They’re all dead, mate – Ed]

Andrew Cryan: Now, what we’ve heard a lot about is what would happen to the Heathrow Airport site if the airport was to close, but what’s not in these documents [brandishes document with TfL logo] is details of what would happen to the rest of London if the airport was to shut.

There then follows an interview with Alan Smith of haulage company Mixed Freight Services, who rightly says that many jobs would be lost.

Back to the Sunday Politics studio, where Jo Coburn is talking to Boris Johnson’s Aviation Adviser, Conservative Daniel Moylan:

Jo Coburn: Is this a pipe dream or a realistic plan?

Daniel Moylan: I think this is very realistic, Jo, I think we’ve got to put this in the context of the fact that nobody else seems to mention but Boris is very aware of, that between now and 2030 the population of London is likely to grow by another 2m people, by 25%. And if you’re sitting there as Mayor of London, you’ve got to think hard about homes and jobs for them.

Now, we have a congested West London and we have a Heathrow Airport that isn’t doing its job, which is constrained, which is environmentally damaging, and like other cities, which has been done successfully elsewhere, we should think of moving that outside the city limits. And yes, we should be thinking: What can we do with the site that’s left over? Rapidly to move, to have jobs and homes for people, to accommodate this large population. It’s absolutely the right thing to do and it’s not at all a pipe dream.

Jo Coburn: Right. I mean, how many people living in Hounslow and other parts of West London rely on Heathrow for their living?

Daniel Moylan: About 143,000 people, 145,000 people, have direct and indirect…

Jo Coburn: So they’d lose their jobs?

Daniel Moylan: No, they would not lose their jobs.

Jo Coburn: Well, they would if you moved the airport, there’d be no jobs.

Daniel Moylan: They would not lose their jobs, far from it. Aviation is a growing industry, there’d be more people in London employed, there’d be more people in London employed in aviation if you actually allowed it to grow. This is not like a car factory, those have been going out of business, or a steelworks, this is a growing industry. There’d be more people employed, many of those people would relocate. Other people would…

Jo Coburn: Right, let me just pick you up on the relocation, because if you’re talking about the source of jobs that people in Hounslow have, when they travel a very short distance to Heathrow Airport – baggage handlers, caterers, cabin crew, cleaners – how on earth are they going to be able to relocate? They’re not paid very well, they rely on the airport for their livelihoods.

Daniel Moylan: The fact is that with the right surface access and trains they’ll be able to get to their jobs – this has been managed very well.

Jo Coburn: Who’s going to pay for their commuting? That’s the whole point about these vital workers, that they can’t afford to travel distances – they have to be near the jobs they do.

Daniel Moylan: Well, that isn’t true across London. I’m afraid, Jo, you don’t know how London works.

Jo Coburn: I do!

Moylan: I think there’ll be a dislocational effect that the government can actually help with, in terms of skills and training, and the sort of things that people want. Over a fifteen-year period, and that you will certainly get huge net benefits from doing this.

Jo Coburn: Yes, there would be an adverse effect while this new airport was being built.

Daniel Moylan: No. During, while the new airport was being built, Heathrow would remain open during the whole of the period because you’ve got no other airport. While it’s being built, and while it’s being planned and developed, a fifteen-year period, anybody who wants to stay working at Heathrow would be able to do so. Other people working at Heathrow – police officers, customs officers, immigration officers – would have relocation packages. The BBC moved to Salford not so long ago, done in a humane and sensible way.

Sunday 6 April: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and his Aviation Adviser, Daniel Moylan, both appear on Sunday Politics, saying that they want Heathrow Airport to close.

Thursday 10 April: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, makes time in his busy schedule of electioneering photo calls and book writing to deny that Heathrow would close if his estuary airport were built.

That’s how he rolls, people of London.

UPDATE: Still Hillingdon Tories persist with their self-deception. God help us:

 
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