Well, as predicted, it was close.
On Wednesday night Parliament voted on the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow by building a third runway. Liberal Democrat MPs and most Conservatives attempted to put a stop to the Government’s scheme by voting it down. 57 Labour MPs had previously said they opposed the plans, so what happened on the night? 28 Labour MPs rebelled, but the rest either abstained or voted with the Government, meaning that the motion was defeated by just 19 votes.
Our local Labour MP Emily Thornberry was one of the 57 – but when it came to the vote she was nowhere to be seen. Her absence, and that of other Labour MPs who claimed to oppose the plans, but then bailed out on the vote, has effectively given the green light to this very un-green project.
With a third runway, Heathrow will become the single biggest source of carbon emissions in the UK. The planning process alone is costing millions of pounds that could be much better spent as Britain faces recession.
So many groups and individuals in Islington have done all they can to fight Heathrow expansion. Not least because our borough lies directly under the flight path. I’ve become co-owner of a plot of land where the new runway is planned to be built. Islington’s Liberal Democrat council joined the 2M group of councils who are fighting the Government over Heathrow.
We can all sign petitions, go on demos, lobby and campaign. The one thing we have to rely on our MPs to do is to use their votes in Parliament. The Heathrow motion may have been tabled by the Tories, but it wasn’t a party political game.
MPs from all parties united to vote with their consciences and against Heathrow. Some Labour MPs even sacrificed their government jobs to take a stand. Emily Thornberry didn’t even have to do that. All she had to do was vote. But she still bottled it, putting petty party politics ahead of standing up for local people and the fight against climate change. Just as she did with Post Offices, the 10p tax rate, and funds for social housing.
The government’s support for Heathrow expansion leaves its green credentials in tatters. And any claim by Emily Thornberry to be a strong, independent voice for Islington is in tatters too.