The politics of Heathrow expansion shows where real power lies

Stuart Weir
18 June 2008

Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Just how old fashioned the principles of representative democracy have become for government ministers is beautifully encapsulated in a brief report on the politics of the third runway at Heathrow by Nicholas Watt in the Guardian (Tuesday 17 June). Watt says that David Cameron was signalling that a Conservative government is likely to block the third runway at Heathrow in a subtly evasive environmental speech and castigated Gordon Brown for his pig-headed pursuit of this project.

The response of government ministers shocked me. For them his apparent opposition "shows he has yet to move from being an opposition politician to a prime minister -in-waiting. They say as prime minister he would face the pressures they face: from the City to improve Heathrow and from the airlines to ensure that Heathrow acts as a European hub." I suppose that we should appreciate such openness about whom they feel accountable to, and I know it anyway. But the short news item does illustrate how far the regimes of Lady T, Blair and Brown have hollowed out democratic politics. What was the point of the consultation exercise over Heathrow? (Ed - Here's a clue: the consultation document didn't give respondents an option to oppose the Third Runway). Are the local populations who oppose the project to be regarded only as voters in marginal constituencies, as these ministers see it? What about the absurd notion that governments represent the public and are - or should be - primarily accountable to them?

So it is not merely prawn cocktails that Brown offers the City. Economic policy, financial policy, trade policy, environmental policy ....

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