Babz Normile works in London and is a Director of Conservatives for International Travel, a grassroots organisation campaigning for a change in party policy, away from opposition to aviation growth and towards support for mass travel. Here she responds to Tuesday’s article by Theresa Villiers regarding the support of some businesses for the party's opposition to Heathrow expansion.
It is rare for any large grouping of individuals or organisations to speak with one voice on a controversial matter. Therefore it should come as little surprise that some businesses oppose Heathrow expansion. But it would be foolhardy for the Shadow Cabinet to take this small collective of contrary voices to mean that most businesses oppose expansion or that expansion would somehow not be good for UK businesses. This would be to flagrantly ignore the many businessmen and business organisations that have vociferously and robustly argued the economic merits of expansion.
Conservatives for International Travel question many of the other arguments made by Ms Villiers in her recent article on this matter, but certain things do need to be pointed out above others.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Transport states that extra capacity at Heathrow may not lead to extra routes, and that popular existing routes may just increase in capacity. But if increased numbers of people are able to travel to places they want to go to, surely that is a good thing, not something to be held as evidence against expansion? When did the Conservative Party become the bulwark against consumer demand?
It also seems that Ms Villiers has taken a nuclear approach to airport expansion once again, by implying that aviation is fundamentally bad for the environment and, consequently, that when in government the Party should oppose any and all expansions of aviation capacity. This point seems to be backed by her former colleague from Brussels, Charles Tannock. In the last nine months the party has stated its opposition to expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. But the messages become mixed when we see that it has stayed remarkably quiet on expansion at Luton, Manston and London City. Finally, the party has given more mixed messages on a Thames Estuary airport than on any other policy area. This is a disservice to the party’s credibility.