Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Boris Island - Clearer interpretation of events?

This weekend I was trawling the blogosphere, trying to bring myself up to speed again and see what was going on.

I was most disappointed to read the following quotation;

It seems once again that those with a limited understanding of local history are trying to distort the Labour position on the Estuary Airport and claim we are 'scaremongering' the local public.

This was clearly directed at me for my previous post.

It is true I'm not a professional Politician, indeed I'm a trained historian, mainly of the Red-coated or Jackboot clad parts of history. However I was writing my Master's degree dissertation on Airfield and airports effects on local communities with a large section on the Cliffe proposals that was going on at the time. My Grandfather kept me really will informed and sent me all manner of documents and news reports!

As a non- politician sitting in the shallow end I have to be careful what I write which means I read up thoroughly before I write anything.

Boris Island, being the only thing that preoccupies the local media and politicos at the moment means I've been able to keep abreast of the situation.

Let me demonstrate by tackling the extensive list on the post to prove that there is scare mongering and an almost paranoid state that those dastardly Tories are going to screw us over.

Tory MPs opposing Labour's visual campaign and favouring a low budget campaign - Well that's just good fiscal sense. After all at the time such a campaign would have been a knee jerk reaction to something that was nowhere near certain, indeed there was to be a mayoral election before anything became "Concrete". At a time when the Conservative administration in Medway was (and is) being heavily scrutinised and criticised for its over expenditure on vanity projects whilst at the same time cutting services and staff, a big campaign would have been a waste. Now however a larger campaign is necessary and is now underway.

Boris Johnson is London's mayor. He wants what is best for his city and its residents and has acted somewhat independently over the project, much to the embarrassment of the Parliamentary Conservative party - a prime example of a local party crossing swords with a national party. On paper a Hub airport would be fantastic for London and indeed for Britain's economy and jobs - which is why George Osborne and others are interested in such a project. Also, on paper, the Estuary is a reasonable place to put it as it has a limited effect on land value and houses. However there is the immense environmental damage.
These backer and the dire straits of the economy have forced the Government's hand and when added to the aviation industry's concern that we're rapidly reaching current capacity. It would be easy to just slam the door and ignore what is happening but this Government is doing the responsible thing and opening up the forum for debate.
Or should a Chancellor of the Exchequer not be looking into ways to boost the economy and business within the nation?

A consultation may also expose all of the natural frailties of the Estuary airport, the SS Robert Montgomery, the unexploded ordinance out on the Peninsula, the fog and all the other problems and finally rule it out as a possibility once and for all and should be welcomed rather than seen as the ultimate GREEN light for construction.

The appointment of Justine Greening as Minister for transport looks problematic, as yes; she is against further expansion of Heathrow, as are the Liberal Democrats. This is why the Coalition agreement (on top of both parties Manifestos) states there will be no third runway in this parliament. (Although that doesn't rule out laying the plans for future governments to put in place.) Though her appointment doesn't automatically mean that there will be an Estuary airport and as a rising star within the party she was soon to receive a top position and with the reshuffle after Doctor Fox's exit from Defence, Transport (big enough to be important but not that important) was there. I admit that taking two months to respond to the open letter was not cricket and should have been much swifter BUT as I wrote at the time she is right  not meet with local council leaders about the project. As the project will be going to consultation it would be inappropriate to meet with anyone protest group or council for fear of vexing the others. How would it look in Heathrow or Gatwick if the minister turned up BEFORE the consultation and said to the Medway Towns:
Nah it's alright you guys are safe

It is better to deal with the duly elected local MPs who, after all represent the people of Rochester & Strood, Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham as well. To be fair they have continually fought this with meetings with the PM, the Minister and questions at PMQS... Why doubt the duly elected representatives just because they too are Conservatives?

A HUB airport within the UK would be fantastic for the country and so an open consultation is absolutely necessary to look into ALL the options. There is no point panicking and scaring other people when absolutely nothing is set in stone. Heck, this morning the press are going on about the likelihood of expanding Heathrow over Boris Island so what does that mean?
What is easy to forget is that there are similar "NO" campaigns in other areas and local Politicians desperate not to let Central Government build a bloody great airport in their back gardens and residents who really don't want it either and the Minister cannot be at the beck and call of all of these groups. Let the Consultation happen and kick in the campaign then with the facts about the environment and the ordinance etc etc...

I know that William Hill have slashed the odds of construction however they are the same people who had Germany as odds on winners of Euro 2012 which I am saddened to say we lost. I'm not a betting man, nor am I are rich man but I am so convinced that I pledge £30s of money I don't have to go to the Demelza House, a local charity, IF this Government consultation gives the Go-ahead for Boris Island or Isle of Grain HUB.

Having spent my whole life over thinking EVERY detail and certain events whilst extrapolating every last detail and blowing things out of all proportion I can understand how the alternative conclusions were reached, especially if you throw in a distrust/hatred of the Conservatives into the mix.
Now, I'm not a Conservative, I'm a proud Liberal Democrat who has had disappointments with our Coalitions partners and disagreements with the Conservative Council that I have aired on line. But if you take a deep breath and think about what is going on there is no real concrete evidence that they are planning a HUB and that they, like a responsible party of Government are preparing to solve a particularly sticky question and look at all the possibilities.

I take quite a bit of umbrage at being dismissed as having "limited understanding" of something I clearly have a grip on and a fair alternative point of view backed up by facts and opinions in just the same way and have followed this story for some time. I suppose, because I'm not a councillor, nor have a corresponding viewpoint it is easy to dismiss my arguments with a fair amount of condescension to the wider audience - whatever helps you sleep at night.


  1. On your points

    i) The Tories / Lib Dems are rejecting re-opening of third runway which seems to be pre-judgement is it not? They have also rejected expansion at Stansted / Gatwick as well. Again pre-judgement of a consultation.

    Our Tory MPs knew this issue was coming up yet failed to stop it from reaching a consultation in November last year; that was a political failure of representation which has now cost the Council £50k at least; and probably more...

    ii) The Labour Motion in full Council was in 2009 which was one year after Boris Johnson was elected and most importantly after he announced funding for scoping documents for both Island / Cliffe and Olson.

    If we had gone ahead then with a full campaign we could have killed this off at significantly less cost.

    iii) Labour already engaged in a full review / consultation in 2002/03 and rejected the idea. Why again?

    iv) PM would have known about the position of Justine Greening MP on her appointment; this was deliberate appointment to pursue a pro-Estuary airport outcome

    v) The fact the govt has changed its stance from 'no current plans' to subject to an aviation review which it has delayed time and time again.

    vi) You have acknowledged the snubs and mismanagement which points to a party trying to delay and obfuscate.

    No one has claimed they are planning a hub; what is being claimed is that they have moved the goalposts time and time again; this movement is entirely consistent with a party that does want a hub airport.

    And incidentally the Tory LEP has not rejected the idea either; leaving the consultation by the Tory-govt to conclude the idea is a good one in the future.

    That is not a success for Hoo or Medway at all; it leaves us open to decades of wrangling and insecurity should it be concluded that a hub airport is either good for 2020 or as a long term option for 2030.

    1. I don't know why I'm bothering to respond because you won't accept it but...

      1/ Heathrow expansion was off the table in 2010, it is fact and immovable. However the consultation on a HUB airport's location be it Birmingham, Northolt or the Estuary is up for Consultation so there are plenty of judgements that can still be made.

      Consultation is a good thing if, unlike the Cliffe consultation, it can nail this shut for good. After all the same problems that are over the estuary are in Cliffe and had it been properly conducted we wouldn't be here now would we?
      As backbenchers the local MPs power is considerably less than say the Chancellor, they did all that was in their power. But I'll come to that in a later point.

      2/ He was looking into the idea of an airport - hardly the same terms as Mr Johnson is using now. There's one thing to look into something another to demand its building. It would have been jumping the gun and ignored by BoJO and his lackies any way as straight up NIMBYism.

      3/The case against the airport was clearly not put across well as with the environmental damage/ weather/ birdstrikes etc etc it is clearly a bad idea yet here we are discussing feasibility again? Surely this should have been shot down in flames then.

      4/Irrelevent as Heathrow already off the table and in any case if the COnsultation came back and said Heathrow is the only way then the govt would either drop it or over rule her

      5/ Govt changed its stance as the pressure to increas trade/ business/ jobs/ airport capacity has grown in recent months.

      6/ I acknowledged only that the Minister was slow in responding and nothing to do with the party.

      A HUB is a good idea for the country and the economy. Our current facilities are getting obsolete and new facilities must be built to replace them which is why the Govt are looking into it. For Pete's sake they have to look at making the country's inferstructure better - its their job. That's why they're having the consultation.