Many suspect that the latest delay on a third runway at Heathrow is actually the government bending to the will of Zac Goldsmith. On the Daily Politics today, the Conservative’s London mayoral candidate said he hadn’t been consulted on the latest delay — all the communications have been one-way from him to the government, apparently — but he still welcomed the decision:
‘It’s an important issue, but it’s not as important as housing, it’s not as important as policing or TFL investments or any of these other issues, so I am delighted that Heathrow is not going to be the dominant issue in the run up to the Mayoral election, of course I am’.
Goldsmith also argued this is not actually a delay because meeting the air pollution criteria is required by the Airports Commission:
‘The Prime Minister has reached the right decision, and I want to make one point in relation to this. A lot of people are describing it as a delay, as dithering but it’s not actually a delay, it was very clear in the airports commission that even if the PM yesterday had said we are going to go with Heathrow, he would have to had go through this same process, he would have had to subject that option to that environmental test to which he is now subjecting all the other options. There is no actual delay.’
And even though he wasn’t part of the decision to delay, Zac was happy to take credit for his sustained campaigning on the issue influencing the government:
‘I’m not of the committee, I’m not part of the Cabinet, I’m not part of that decision making process. If through what I have done I have managed to influence the debate along with thousands of other residents and MPs and councillors then I’m not going to apologise for that. That’s my job – to campaign and to succeed’.
There have been reports that Zac ‘held a gun’ to David Cameron’s head over Heathrow and promised to trigger a by-election before the Mayoral election in May 2016, but he said this was a ‘red herring’. But there’s no disputing that his mayoral candidacy is based on opposing Heathrow expansion — he explicitly told Andrew Neil today that he’d back Gatwick instead — and if Zac succeeds Boris next year, a major clash with the party’s leadership is inevitable. It’s just a question of when it happens.