Chris Moncrieff: Will Minister take flight and resign over Heathrow?

Will Rotherham-born Justine Greening resign her Cabinet post if a third runway is built at Heathrow?
Will Rotherham-born Justine Greening resign her Cabinet post if a third runway is built at Heathrow?
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IS the Government “frit” – as Margaret Thatcher would say – about reaching a decision on a third runway for Heathrow Airport?

It would seem that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Their failure to do so last week has been variously denounced as “gutless” and “cowardly”, particularly by industrialists, and yet hailed by those who want to see Heathrow stay as it is and think Gatwick instead should be the “beneficiary” of an extra runway.

The Government’s claim that it needs at least another six months to consider the environmental effects of a third Heathrow runway rings hollow with those who insist that Britain’s economy will suffer if nothing is done.

After all, this has been a burning issue for years. Someone, at some stage, has got to say yea or nay.

Many people suspect the excuse the Government needs more time to assess the environmental impact of all this is merely a shameful pretence – and that Conservative Party political issues are at the heart of the problem.

Are Ministers afraid that a decision – one way or another – if taken before May, could adversely affect the Tories’ prospects at local elections? It is beginning to look like it.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservatives’ choice for Mayor of London, has metaphorically held a gun at ministers’ heads by warning that he could resign as an MP if the Heathrow option goes ahead. And David Cameron, whose House of Commons majority is far from substantial, can ill-afford to lose an MP and be confronted with a very difficult by-election to fight.

What is more, the Cabinet is also divided on the issue and at least one member, Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born International Development Secretary, has threatened to resign from office if Heathrow is the preferred choice.

That would be a huge embarrassment to the Prime Minister and an equally huge boost to Labour.

Just as well that Victorian entrepreneurs did not dither and twiddle their thumbs like this – or there would hardly have been an Industrial Revolution.

LABOUR Party women are in the news – for both good and questionable reasons.

The good news is that Angela Eagle, Shadow Leader of the Commons, put in a stellar performance against Chancellor George Osborne, standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Osborne seemed taken aback by this sprightly performer, whose quick wit and general cheerful demeanour brought a few much-needed smiles even to the normally dour and glowering Opposition front bench.

But the other item is not so happy. It is reported that Diane Abbott, the formidable Shadow International Development Secretary, is wanting to oust Rosie Winterton, the longstanding Doncaster MP and former minister, from the key post of Opposition chief whip.

Needless to say, Abbott fiercely denies the report, it being added on her behalf that she is very happy in her present post.

The job of Opposition chief whip is the only one on the Opposition side – apart from the leader himself – which attracts a top-up of public money to the normal parliamentary salary.

IT seems to have slipped the Prime Minister’s mind that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ – and is not supposed to be about him.

Yet, his Christmas card this year seems to have little to do with Christmas and more about me, me, me – and is boring to boot.

It shows a posed picture of David Cameron, alongside his wife Samantha, at the door of 10 Downing Street after his victory at the general election last May.

It was, I think, Harold Wilson who started this habit of putting his own photograph on his Christmas card, a vain thing to do which some of his successors have unwisely emulated.

Cameron would have done far better to send one of his minions (perhaps the diminutive Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock) down to Tesco to purchase some traditional cards for him to send out. That would be a great improvement on his present exercise in vanity. Shakespeare memorably wrote: “There is nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.”

David Cameron obviously still has a lot to learn about that.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.