Living up to low expectations
Last month, details were announced for a third runway at Heathrow airport. This is scheduled for 2026 with full expansion by 2050.
A masterplan is out to public consultation. It lists intentions to divert rivers, reconfigure road networks and route the M25 through a tunnel beneath a new runway.
I don’t offer an opinion on these proposals. My silence is no big deal. What is a lot more significant however is that the man who became PM yesterday is just as quiet on the subject.
Back in 2015, speaking just after his ‘re-entry’ into parliament, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson declared that “Heathrow is undeliverable and the sooner we face that, the sooner our salvation."
He repeated that opinion several times, adding that he would join like-minded MPs in campaigning to fight the government. He even went as far as vowing to lay down alongside shadow chancellor John Macdonald in defiance of the bulldozers.
Yet when the controversial authorising decision came before parliament in June 2018, Johnson failed to attend the debate.
The excuse for his absence at the time was a sudden urgent need for a visit to Afghanistan for ‘meetings’. No official government statement has ever been given.
A later attempt by party sources to cite additional troop arrivals was abandoned when it was confirmed that deployments had been approved a year previously.
Former trade minister Greg Hands who resigned from the government in order to oppose the Heathrow plans declared the debate about “being true to your word and to your election pledges". Johnson has never responded.
Thus we see the potential calibre of the self-proclaimed ‘dude’ who has just been given the nod by 92,153 people (roughly the population of Darlington) to take over the government’s reins.
As many commentators have already observed, never before has an incoming prime minister faced so many serious challenges, both to the nation and to their own political survival. Never before either has that person appeared to be so ill-equipped for the task.
For me, the truly remarkable thing is the number of people who expect him to fail. Not even those eager to accept new cabinet jobs can claim that they are in it for the long-term.
Yet should we be surprised?
For many of us, politics is a discredited profession. Leadership has been diminished to little more than an ability to spout fatuous soundbites, aided and abetted by a smugly superior media who remain in a state of denial about their complicity in bringing things to their present pass.
We’ve been fed on a diet of low expectations for the last decade and now we have someone installed at Downing Street who typifies those second-rate standards, plus a track record of clumsy evasion.
We are asked to believe that pro-Brexit Boris can deliver within a hundred days something that Theresa May could not achieve in just over a thousand.
The lesson we can take from Heathrow is that no-one should get their hopes up just yet.