Great Heathrow debate: Justine Greening talks herself out of job
While Tim Yeo puts pressure on Cameron to give runway go-ahead, asking 'Is he man or mouse?'
TRANSPORT Secretary Justine Greening this morning has come out strongly against a third runway for London Heathrow leaving David Cameron no option but to move her in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle or risk looking like a 'mouse'.
Greening could not have been more explicit in her interview on the BBC TV Breakfast show, saying "I think there is a cross party consensus that having a third runway is not the right thing to do…"
She reinforced her stand – or dug herself a deeper hole – on BBC Radio's Today programme when she was asked by James Naughtie whether it was being looked at again. "No," she said. "The coalition agreement is very clear. We don't support a third runway."
She has always been against the extra runway because it will deafen her constituents in West London – a point Cameron was well aware of when he appointed her Transport Secretary in an emergency reshuffle caused by last year's forced resignation of Liam Fox from the cabinet.
At that time, her opposition to Heathrow expansion was in line with Cameron's thinking. Since then, the failure of the economy to pick up has forced a change of thinking in Downing Street. The Mole's ministerial contacts say that Heathrow Three is now "definitely coming".
Tim Yeo, Tory chair of the environmental audit committee of the Commons, is the latest to demand Heathrow Three - and he couples it with a warning for Cameron not to dither any more. In a show of extraordinary contempt for Cameron (a growing tendency on the Tory backbenches), he writes in a stinging article for The Daily Telegraph: "The Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse."
Yoe goes on: '"Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance? Or is there somewhere inside his heart — an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons — a trace of Thatcher, determined to reverse the direction of our ship?
"An immediate go-ahead for a third runway will symbolise the start of a new era, the moment the Cameron government found its sense of mission. Let's go for it."
Yeo is just the latest senior Tory to urge Cameron to back the scheme to boost the economy. Others are said to include Grant Shapps, the housing minister, Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and Chancellor (whether Guardian/ICM poll respondents like it or not) George Osborne.
Even Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, who would prefer a new airport in the Thames estuary, has warned Cameron to stop "pussyfooting" around on extra airport capacity for London.
So far, Cameron has been resisting Heathrow expansion because of the green objections of his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats – Nick Clegg their leader is against it. But Cameron is now going to be accused of being a 'mouse' by his own side if he doesn't back the third runway.
Greening's bold words this morning mean Cameron cannot leave her at Transport if he wants to do a U-turn over Heathrow.
Significantly, she ducked an answer to Naughtie when he asked her whether she could sit in a cabinet that approved a third runway. "I think it would be difficult for me," she admitted. But she said it was "hypothetical".
For hypothetical, read almost certain. The reshuffle is very likely to be the first signal that Heathrow expansion is on.