The view from Gatwick

London enjoys world-class air links. With 134 million passengers flying in and out each year, it’s the best-connected city in the world. Yet with a future capacity problem it begs the question: for how long?

Much is already changing in air travel. Low cost carriers continue to gain market share, orders for new long distance, hub-busting aircraft are increasing, and new hubs in the Middle East and Far East are growing rapidly – all of which reduce the relative importance of traditional transfer traffic through London. We have also seen a transformation within London itself. The three largest airports are now separately owned and have begun to compete. This is a real game-changer. 
 
Despite this, we are still told that it is only growth at our largest airport that matters. But London is a world city and destination in its own right: 87 per cent of passengers begin or end their journey here. It’s not a city people pass through. Only 13 per cent of passengers make up the transfer journeys we hear so much about. This proportion is likely to increase in the coming years, which means that despite what the proponents of creating a ‘mega hub’ at Heathrow or in the Thames Estuary might say, the importance of hub passengers in London is exaggerated. 
 
Policy should be framed around the travel needs of all passengers and not dictated solely by those who only want to change planes in London. Transfer passengers are important but they are in the minority. As the Airports Commission looks at  the options, it will need to ensure that any recommended solution is deliverable, environmentally sustainable, and has a strong business case behind it. A degree of political consensus is also key, as is the  need to deliver certainty to airlines, businesses and communities. 
 
Our vision for a two runway Gatwick, as part of a constellation of three major airports surrounding London, is affordable, deliverable, sustainable and promotes competition for the benefit of passengers. 
 
We believe a constellation model provides a better strategic fit for London and for the UK. It could be delivered at a fraction of the cost of a new airport in the Thames Estuary and would generate significantly less noise than a third runway at Heathrow. It will also be the most beneficial option for passengers, allowing competition between airports, better connections and affordability. Twenty two of the world’s 40 busiest cities for air travel successfully employ this model and have more than one airport serving their needs. 
 
Building the next runway at Gatwick would not only solve the capacity issue for a generation but allow us to collectively offer a greater selection of destinations to passengers. We have already invested over £1bn since the change of ownership in 2009. We’ve opened new direct routes to some of the fastest growing economies such as China, Russia and Vietnam. More competition will deliver the enhanced connectivity the UK economy needs. Where there is passenger demand, the market should be able to respond.
 
So far, the needs of passengers have been largely lost in the aviation debate. I believe they should be able to choose where to fly, when to fly, and who to fly with. In the longer term, capacity has to be matched to the passenger need. They want better value fares, new destinations, higher quality airports and more convenient door-to-door journeys every time they travel. Our option will deliver these benefits by creating multiple layers of choice for passengers.
 
Crucially though, noise impacts will be substantially lower than for Heathrow’s plans. A two runway Gatwick will affect fewer than 5 per cent of the people Heathrow impacts today. And unlike Heathrow, we will not breach European and national air quality standards.  
The Airports Commission has provided us with a unique opportunity to look to the future and develop a strategy which will benefit the UK for decades to come. Gatwick expansion will cost between £5bn and £9bn – a fraction of the cost of expansion at Heathrow – and a second runway can be open by 2025. Our runway plans are currently backed by local authorities and business groups. With the right political will, our vision is not only possible but the best. 
 
Stewart Wingate is chief executive of Gatwick Airport 
Gatwick's South Terminal. Photograph: Getty
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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.