A Stop Heathrow sign goes up in Sipton. Photo: Getty Images
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Will the government go to war over Heathrow?

The Davies Report into airport expansion has opted for a third runway at Heathrow - triggering a split at the top of the Tory party.

The Davies Commission into airport expansion has reccomended a third runway at Heathrow, putting the government on a collision course with some of its most senior members. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a strong supporter of the third runway, but Theresa May, the Home Secretary, Justine Greening, the Development Secretary,  Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond all have seats that are affected by expansion and are likely to strongly oppose expansion.

Greening, who was moved from the Transport brief in 2012 due to her opposition in Heathrow, is thought to be implacably opposed to a third runway, as is Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor and newly-installed MP for Ruislip & Uxbridge, and Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond and Johnson's likely successor as the Tory standard-bearer in London. Sadiq Khan, one of the Labour candidates for Mayor, is also opposed to Heathrow expansion, although his rivals, Gareth Thomas, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell all back the Davies report. 

Although superficially, the Liberal Democrat wipe-out clears the path for Heathrow expansion - that party is opposed to airport expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick - Conservative insiders believe that the problem has simply taken on a new form. "With them, it was 30 per cent environmentalism, 70 per cent opportunism," says one Conservative, suggesting that constituency pressure may have had more to do with Liberal opposition to Heathrow than green concerns. "Now it's our people who have [these seats]."

The second runway at Gatwick - which the commission has also not ruled out - may prove a more politically palatable option, despite the championing of Heathrow by Sir Howard Davies, the Commission chair. 

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

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.