Flying too close
The government has formed a cosy relationship with the aviation industry. No wonder environmentalists are preparing for direct action.
The aviation industry used to lobby government. Now it seems they practically are the government. If anyone's still in any doubt of Brown's plans to trample over popular opposition to airport expansion, his most recent appointments give a glimpse of Labour's cosy relationship with the airline industry and lay out the battle lines the green movement will have to face in coming months.
Sir Digby Jones is the former CBI boss who became chair of the new aviation industry lobby group, Flying Matters. The group was recently formed to take on environmentalists over airport expansion. You could say that they have had a bit of a head start given that their boss is now a minister. That slight conflict of interests doesn't seem to bother our new PM. In fact, Brown also appointed the savvy political operator, Joe Irvin, formerly a director of the aviation lobby group, Freedom to Fly, to become one of his inner circle of advisors too.
Freedom to Fly was the brainchild of Steve Hardwick - another of Labour's key Millbank apparatchiks - and the organisation was previously chaired by Labour peer Brenda Dean and directed by Dan Hodges, the son of Glenda Jackson who was Labour's first aviation minister. Dan Hodge's wife, Michelle De Leo, is the new director of Flying Matters, so as you can see, they're keeping it in the family.
The chancellor, Alistair Darling, the bete noir of climate campaigners, is far from a stranger to BAA either. In fact, he was the guest of honour who officially launched a group called Future Heathrow, who are lobbying for a third runway and a sixth terminal at the airport. Funnily enough, Future Heathrow, is headed up by another Labour peer, Lord Soley, who works out of a BAA office in West London. To assume they needn't lobby the government too hard is probably an understatement.
The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, was part of the team that oversaw the Barker Review whose recommendations, which Brown appears to support, were designed to suppress the voices of local opponents of major projects, like, say, runways, for example. It seems she's now, suddenly in prime position to follow through on her planning white paper and bulldozer through plans for fast tracking climate-damaging projects like airport expansion.
The revolving door between Labour and BAA doesn't seem to have stopped spinning so it's not difficult to see why thousands are preparing instead to resort to direct action to stop climate-wrecking projects like new runways and power stations. But for a prime minister claiming, even on his first day in office, to make the restoration of trust in politics a key priority, this doesn't bode well.
This was first published on commentisfree.co.uk on 29th June 2007