UPDATE 5pm: Thanks to the reader who emailed me this poster. Very funny!
There is growing disquiet among Tory MPs, and the Shadow Cabinet, about Theresa Villiers witchhunt against BAA. The Shadow Transport Secretary issued a press release yesterday headlined PROMISES FROM BAA CAN'T BE TRUSTED. The release went on to accuse BAA of breaking all its promises on a third runway.
BAA are right to admit that they have lost the trust of Parliamentarians and local communities over the third runway. However today's letter is just the next in a long line of promises which may have been sincere at the time, that were subsequently cast aside by the company. We have seen this all before. What BAA needs to realise is that people do not want a third runway, we do not need a third runway, and under a Conservative Government there will not be a third runway.
All this was said in response to a BAA proposal that a completely independent body should be set up to ensure that it is impossible for promises to be broken. Surely that was something a Shadow Transport Secretary should welcome. One has to ask what kind of message this sends out to private companies who want to act responsibly? "Sorry, we don't trust you so don't bother trying".
I have been a fierce critic of BAA in the past for its lack of investment in its airports and the terrible impression foreign visitors get when they first set foot in Heathrow. I also think that in the past it has been its own worst enemy in some of the policy positions it has adopted. It's certainly not beyond criticism now. But that criticism should be measured and logical and not driven by the agenda of a bunch of environmental fundamentalists.
Yes, BAA has changed its position on a third runway since 1994 when it said there wouldn't be one. If that's the basis of Villiers' increasingly strident and personal campaign against them (which seems to rely on West London Friends of the Earth for most of its ammunition) perhaps she should look at the transport policies of the Conservative Party and see how they have changed in the last 14 years. By her logic, no one should trust the Conservative Party either. Why are politicians allowed to change policy every two minutes, yet private companies with shareholders have to maintain the same policy for ever?
It comes to something when a group of Conservatives feel the need to form a lobby group to stand up for the aviation industry in opposition to their own front bench spokesman. But if needs must. But they are not alone. There are a substantial number of Shadow Cabinet members who are furious at Villiers' stance, and the leadership's apparent endorsement of it. Perhaps they will soon have the balls to speak out.