Yesterday, I joined campaigners from Friends of the Earth, as well as Sian Berry from the Green Party and John Stewart from HACAN, at Finsbury Park. We were there to mark our objection to plans for Heathrow expansion. The protest highlights the end of the Government’s consultation on the Heathrow proposals. It’s an issue where Lib Dems have led from the start. Next week, our leader Nick Clegg and Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick will be top of the bill at the HACAN rally at Westminster Central Hall.
Meanwhile, back in Finsbury Park, we crossed muddy parkland to get to high ground and unveil our ‘North London against Heathrow Expansion” banner. All the other groups in the park were moving rapidly. Up hill were footballers; down hill, a group of fitness enthusiasts being directed in press-ups by three guys in army gear. Brave souls: the wind was freezing.
I recently read a description of being a candidate as running a marathon every week, while throwing £5 notes over your shoulder, and having to be smartly dressed 24 hours a day. Mindful of this last bit, I had put a smart jacket on under my fleece. We managed to find a spot, lined up children, bikes, and Basil the dog. Out came the cameras, so off came my fleece.The ground was too muddy to put my fleece down, so I had it and my handbag clamped between my knees, thankfully all hidden by the banner which we clutched against the wind. Ah, the glamour of politics. “Look serious”, said the photographer. Not a problem. By the time the photos were done, our hands nearly matched my (blue) jacket. The campaigners are so dedicated, and their cause is so good; so I hope against hope that the Government will, for once, listen.
I’ve blogged before about the campaign launched by Lib Dem councillors, Islington Quiet Skies, to highlight the problems caused by existing night flights for Islington. As Hillrise councillor Julia Williams says, “The Government should realise the effect that loud noise has on people at this time and reduce- or ban outright- the flights over our communities before 7am.” Expanding Heathrow will make it far worse.
I can’t think of a single issue around Heathrow where the Labour Government has taken the side of residents against the interests of the aviation industry. And so far Islington South’s Labour MP Emily Thornberry hasn’t rebelled on a single aviation vote; in 2006, she even voted to overturn a House of Lords’ attempt to keep a ‘cap’ on night flights from Heathrow. Something for Islington residents, woken by flights that start as early as 5am, to mull over.