By Tim Montgomerie
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The issue of a third runway at London Heathrow is not just an issue of growth policy, it's about the PM's honour and credibility. Opposition to a third runway wasn't buried in the small print of the Tory manifesto. It was very clear we wouldn't build one. Cameron himself was clearer. "No ifs, no buts, no third runway", he said. It seems pretty clear, however, that the Government is at least considering a new position but not until the next parliament. After moaning at Labour's tendency to appoint a new Transport Secretary once-every-year, on average, Mr Cameron has moved Justine Greening after less than 12 months in the post. By 68% to 14% Tory members in the latest ConHome poll agreed that “Justine Greening lost her job as Transport Secretary because the leadership is getting ready to U-turn on its policy towards a third runway at Heathrow.” I should imagine voters in the dozen or so seats where Heathrow is a decisive issue will have drawn similar conclusions.
In an article for this afternoon's Comment is free Zac Goldsmith puts another marker down. "If there is a pre-election U-turn," he writes, "my colleagues will struggle at the next election to persuade voters that their manifesto is worth the paper it's written on."
There won't, I suspect, be a "pre-election U-turn", My guess is that the Tory commitment in the next manifesto will be to honour the Howard Davies review into aviation policy, which reports AFTER the general election. I can't see Zac Goldsmith and other Tory MPs under the Heathrow flightpath thinking that's enough. I also can think of a charismatic mayor who won't be happy either.