The chair of the government’s airports commission was refreshingly honest about the purpose of his review when he appeared on the Today programme this morning. Sir Howard Davies said:
‘I have reflected quite hard on the criticisms about long grass that the Mayor of London and Michael Heseltine say, that this is booted into the long grass. So how can you make best use of your time in the long grass? What I think we can do is do a lot of the preparatory work. I think we can do that so that when a new government comes into office in 2015 when they make a decision it will have a flying start. I aim to to be a really expert piece of work looking at how you think about airport capacity which I hope internationally will be leading edge.’
Sir Howard will set out the membership of the commission and its terms of reference today as he makes himself comfortable in the long grass. But stalking through the undergrowth towards him is the Mayor of London, who took the opportunity of his own slot on the same programme to savage the review and the government as brutally as he possibly could.
In the same way as someone starts a sentence with ‘no offence, but’ before saying something rather offensive and personal, the Mayor said he had ‘great respect for Howard’ and that he looks ‘forward to co-operating fully with his inquiry and to giving him all the benefit of the investigations that we’ve done into this matter’. Then he pounced. The review would be ‘toxic and disastrous’ for the 2015 election, he said, as it would leave the question about airport capacity hanging over the electorate. He also suspected that the government would yield to pressure from business and ‘come up with what they think is the best short-term solution, which is to go for the third runway at Heathrow’.