By Matthew Barrett
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Boris Johnson has lobbed another grenade at the Government this afternoon, in a speech to aviation experts at City Hall. The Mayor criticised the Government's Heathrow plans (as if Patrick McLoughlin wasn't dealing with enough at the moment) as being "lamentable" and setting Britain on a course for "economic catastrophe". A section of the speech released to the press said:
"The Government programme to address the looming aviation capacity crunch in the UK is far too slow and I am hugely concerned that their intended timetable sets a course for economic catastrophe. This continued inertia is being fully exploited by our European rivals who already possess mega hub airports that they intend to use to erode our advantage. I will continue to work with the Government and the Davies Commission; but the urgency of the situation and the lamentable attention that the Government has paid to this pressing issue has forced me to accelerate the work that I will do to develop a credible solution.”
It's worth noting two things. The first is that this speech is unlikely to have been thought up over the last 48 hours, and so his comments are probably badly timed rather than calculated criticism to add to the Government's transport worries. The second thing to note is that instead of simply calling the Government's behaviour "lamentable", the BBC's Chris Mason tweeted that Boris actually used the words "lamentable, blind and complacent". That certainly would suggest a ramping up of the level of criticism.
The timing of it is all rather unhelpful. One can see Boris' point of view: on a basic level, the Heathrow runway is not the right road to go down (what happens when the "unashamedly pro-growth" crew demand a fourth runway?), and on a political level it would alienate plenty of the Tory voters Boris, or any Conservative in London or the country at large, needs to be re-elected). But did he have to say it all so close to the beginning of Conservative conference?