As Solidarity went to press, there was speculation the Government would delay its expected 15 January announcement on whether it would allow a third runway at Heathrow, amid mounting opposition from a variety of sources.
12 January saw a many-hundred strong invasion of the airport by climate change activists; the next day Gordon Brown faced opposition in the cabinet and a grilling from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Heathrow expansion would be a disaster from the point of view of stopping dangerous climate change; evidence presented by a wide range of environmental organisations suggests that a third runway would make it vastly more difficult to meet the Government’s own target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.
New Labour’s determination to go ahead regardless is motivated by its slavish obedience to the so-called “business lobby”, i.e. the interests and desires of the big capitalists. It is a travesty from a democratic, as well as an ecological, point of view.
With the Tories and Lib Dems committed to voting against expansion, it would only take 32 Labour rebels for the Government to lose the vote; and 57 have already signed Early Day Motion 2344 opposing the third runway. However, it turns out that the Government does not need Parliamentary permission to go ahead —the vote, whatever the outcome, will have no force in law!
In other words, New Labour will override both determined opposition from the overwhelming majority of the local community near Heathrow and the majority vote of our elected representatives, if that is what it takes to serve at the pleasure of BAA, the big airlines and the CBI.
Mention should be made here of the shameful role played by Unite, which organises workers at Heathrow, and the TUC, who have consistently parroted business propaganda about creating jobs. In fact, there are major job losses planned at the airport, losses which will cancel out a large part of the benefits of expansion and which the unions have no serious plan to fight. In any case, thousands of tons of new CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere is decidedly not in the interests of the working class, at Heathrow or anywhere else.
Six trade unions have already come out against a third runway — Unison, TSSA, ASLEF, RMT, PCS and Connect. Socialists in Unite must argue for the union to fight to defend existing jobs at Heathrow, demand new jobs are created in environmentally beneficial alternatives like rail — and commit itself to the campaign against a third runway.