Putney MP Justine Greening has launched a stinging attack on the government’s decision to approve the building of a new runway at Heathrow, adding to speculation that she could become the Conservative candidate for London mayor in 2020.
Greening’s description of the plan as “the worst kind of nationalisation” during Prime Minister’s Questions comes the day after senior Tory London Assembly member Andrew Boff responded to the Heathrow news by writing on Twitter, apparently expressing the view of the group as a whole, that “We expect our Mayoral candidate to oppose this,” and that “GLA Conservatives will oppose this decision with every breath we take for as long as it takes”.
Boff and Greening’s interventions come as Conservatives in London prepare to embark on the process of selecting their challenger to Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan in two years’ time, assuming he runs for a second term.
The decision to put a mayoral candidate in place early reflects a recognition among London Conservatives that they left the decision too late for the 2016 race and that they need a candidate with real appeal for Londoners following Zac Goldsmith’s disastrous and damaging bid two years ago and that, despite not losing as many seats in last month’s borough elections as feared, they are a long way behind Labour in the capital.
Following her PMQs remarks, Greening took to Twitter to say, “Heathrow third runway is bad deal for my community and for our country…we need 21st century UK airports strategy – regional airports with more connectivity on people’s doorsteps and helping regional economic growth”.
Greening’s constituents are among those most affected by noise and air pollution from Heathrow flight paths, has long expressed concerns over the effects of night flights and other issues. In an article for The Times last week she listed “eight reasons why Heathrow expansion is a bad idea”, including its cost and impacts on other parts of Britain, and has called for MPs to be given a free vote on the issue.
Her support for remaining in the European Union, her social liberalism and obvious readiness to speak out against her party’s national leadership are seen by many as strong credentials in a potential mayoral candidate in the culturally diverse and strongly Remain capital.
Andrew Boff is a contributor to On London.