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.