Anti-wind-farm candidate James Delingpole pulls out of Corby by-election, as the town continues to have no wind farms

Delingpole cites "stunningly successful campaign"; others cite desire to avoid losing £500 deposit.

Harry Cole of Guy Fawkes' blog has a quote from anti-green journalist James Delingpole, announcing his withdrawal from the Corby by-election:

What would be the point? John Hayes has just gone and made my every dream come true. I’m overjoyed. In fact, I think I may well have run the most stunningly successful election campaign in the history of elections.

Delingpole, of course, was running as an anti-wind-farm candidate in a constituency without any wind farms. Since Corby still has no wind farms, in a way he has been astonishingly successful, and will doubtless soon be attempting to sell residents of the arctic circle magic amulets which keep away lions – works 100% of the time!

It was always unclear whether Delingpole was running in Corby on local issues or in an attempt to make his voice heard nationally (beyond his already considerable platform as a Telegraph columnist). There are ongoing tussles in Corby around an application to build a wind farm, but since that application hasn't been dropped, it seems Delingpole was just using the by-election as a megaphone, and didn't really care about the situation in Corby at all. Fancy that.

Delingpole cited the anti-wind-farm rhetoric of DECC minister John Hayes, but since Delingpole gave Cole his statement, the DECC secretary of state (Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who outranks the Conservative minister) has contradicted Hayes. Will Delingpole re-enter the race?

That seems unlikely. As Tim Fenton points out:

Delingpole has withdrawn just before the deadline for submitting nomination papers, which is 1600 hours today (pdf). So he doesn’t have to stump up a £500 deposit, but gets his free publicity. The Fawkes blog item is spin of the most blatant kind: the real story is that James Delingpole never intended to submit himself to the electorate of Corby and East Northamptonshire.

It would be wonderful to know what Delingpole was planning to give as his reason for pulling out before Hayes' comments gave him a convenient excuse. Now, we never shall.

A wind farm, not in Corby. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington.