Boris Johnson speaks at Bloomberg's London HQ yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Will Boris change his stance on Heathrow if he stands for Uxbridge?

The airport, which the Mayor has demanded be closed, is one of the biggest local employers.

After Boris Johnson's announcement that he intends to stand for a seat next year, Uxbridge and South Ruislip has been swiftly installed as the favourite. The Mayor's team have already held talks with the local Conservative association, which selects its candidate on 13 September. 

It's easy to see why the constituency appeals to Johnson: it's in London (putting him within easy reach of City Hall), the Tories currently have a majority of 11,216, and the outgoing MP, John Randall, has endorsed him, declaring that he would "reach parts of the electorate that I can't reach". 

There's just one hitch: Heathrow. The airport is one of the area's biggest employers, but, rather inconveniently, Johnson has called for it to be closed down. (To make way for "Boris island" in the Thames estuary.) He said last year:

Ambitious cities all over the world are already stealing a march on us and putting themselves in a position to eat London's breakfast, lunch and dinner by constructing mega airports that plug them directly into the global supply chains that we need to be part of.

Those cities have moved heaven and earth to locate their airports away from their major centres of population, in areas where they have been able to build airports with four runways or more. For London and the wider UK to remain competitive we have to build an airport capable of emulating that scale of growth. Anyone who believes there would be the space to do that at Heathrow, which already blights the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners, is quite simply crackers.

Unsurprisingly, this stance hasn't gone unnoticed by residents. Mike Appleton of the Back Heathrow campaign told LBC: "The people of west London are quite worried about Boris's plans to shut down a major local employer and a major centre of business.

"Thousands of people in the area rely on Heathrow Airport. But not just those people who work there directly, but the businesses who rely on the airport, like logistics companies and taxi firms, who are very concerned by his plans." 

So will Johnson simply change his position? (As he has so many other times.) Perhaps. The Mayor has long been a Marxist of the Groucho variety: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." Should the Davies Commission reject Boris island in its next interim report (as seems almost certain), he will have the cover he needs to retreat. But such is the force with which Johnson has campaigned against a third Heathrow runway that this could be a U-turn too far. How the Mayor behaves will be an early test of his ability to cope with the new constraints he will face. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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