Is Boris the UK’s Ronald Reagan?

Iain Martin writes in the Daily Telegraph:

Another day, another deranged report on the future of Heathrow. This time it is the Transport Select Committee suggesting that London’s main airport be extended to four (four!) runways, doubling the airport’s size and blighting the lives of millions of people who live in West London. Forget the various horse racing scandals. We must ask: were the members of the select committee doped? Or is it just that they wrote their report without looking at a map?

It is – once again from the current political class – the sheer lack of ambition and vision that it is so depressing. Extending Heathrow rather than looking for a proper long-term solution is simply corporatist defeatism. As though all the airline industry has to do is launch another of its interminable public affairs campaigns and the country will roll over.

Heathrow suits the airlines, because they are already there and they think extending it would be cheap and easy for them. A larger Heathrow suits some politicians because it seems like a good idea, until you think about it and look at a map. Incidentally, aviation is merely another industry that should be at our beck and call rather than the other way round.

So what did Boris say?

What a relief it was then to hear the Mayor of London on the radio today being uplifting and knocking the report into touch. Boris is spot on. London needs to look eastwards rather than compounding a planning mistake made at Heathrow in the 1940s. ….

Imagine as the crown jewels of London’s expansion, a new four or five runway airport built further out east, the best airport in the world in the world’s greatest city, on land reclaimed from the sea. That is not an outlandish idea. Just ask the Dutch, or look at Hong Kong’s airport. The new transport links feeding the airport could also involve new commuter lines to the major employment hubs of the centre.

But, responds the ruling elite, it’s too expensive, we’re a rubbish country now, we can’t do this sort of stuff in Britain. Let’s just give in to the airlines and hope for quieter planes which seem forever to be just around the corner but never arrive.

Boris says “piffle” to all that. He blows a raspberry in the face of the defeatists. Would building the world’s greatest airport, serving a city where people want to live not be the most marvellous money-spinner and investment opportunity? Get the world’s sovereign wealth funds and hungry investors to pile in. Issue London bonds. Fire up the architects. For the good of Britain expand London. Build, build, build and increase the opportunities available to London’s poorer citizens. Get moving!

Boris says this stuff in such an uplifting way that I am convinced increasingly that he could be Britain’s Ronald Reagan. I mean that as a compliment. Like the great American president, he exudes optimism about his country’s capacity for renewal and recovery.

And the future:

Boris need not be made prime minister this minute. But eventually, when the rhetoric of austerity is exhausted, and the current leaders have fought themselves to a standstill, there will be an opportunity for someone to emerge with a bit of anti-politics oomph and pizazz. Someone who says that actually the 2020s and beyond could be great for Britain if we don’t overload the economy with high taxes and use a bit of imagination. We have so much going for us in terms of language, culture, ideas, science, industry, sport, innovation and pubs. We need an injection of the feel-good spirit and some dynamism.

There will eventually be an appetite for optimism, and Boris seems keen to supply it. There is another aspect of his potential appeal. Who can cut a deal with UKIP’s Nigel Farage in 2017 or thereabouts, in the Rose Garden of Number 10? Boris can.

Boris’ term as Mayor ends in 2016. It will be very interesting to see what seats come up around that time.

Comments (15)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: