Though the reshuffle, which continues today, saw very little movement at the top of the government, fans of the changes believe the Prime Minister still managed to remove one large obstacle to growth by taking the two women – Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers – opposed to a third runway at Heathrow out of the Transport department.
Tory MPs I spoke to yesterday know that this will be one of the big rows of the autumn, as the commission examining aviation capacity gets to work. Some believe the government should get on with the decision, upset a few MPs whose constituencies are affected (including Vince Cable, who will be more than simply upset if there is a move towards a third runway), but reap the long term benefits of more capacity.
One MP who could not disagree more with that view is Zac Goldsmith. He wants the government to get on with the decision, too, because he thinks ministers haven’t ‘been clear and straight will voters all along’.
Goldsmith was actually so angry last night that he managed to suggest that people shouldn’t vote Conservative in 2015 when he appeared on LBC radio. ‘If they haven’t made up their mind about what they are going to do about aviation by the next manifesto, then I would suggest that no-one votes for them because that, frankly, would be a disgrace,’ he said.
As we noted yesterday on Coffee House, now is the perfect time for Boris to pick up a few more allies that he might need for his potential return to the House of Commons. And so it was no surprise that he too attacked the decision to move Greening, and also called on the government to get on with ruling out the third runway.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, he accused the Treasury of ‘focusing its hopes’ on Heathrow, which isn’t entirely fair even based on the moves yesterday, given the change in personnel at the Communities and Local Government department, which will have to administer the planning changes that are coming down the line. But he’s right that moving both Greening and Villiers sends out a strong signal that a U-turn is on the cards. The question is whether Boris manages to gather sufficient numbers of casualties from the changes in government to make this row his own, or whether MPs will eventually submit to a change in policy on aviation.Tags: Autumn reshuffle 2012, Aviation, Boris Johnson, Heathrow, UK politics, Zac Goldsmith