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 domestic and global politics.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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.