The issue of whether to grant permission for a third runway at Heathrow is starting to become a festering sore for the Tories. Although coalition policy is not to allow it, pressure has been building for a while on the party to commit to reversing that decision if they win a majority in 2015.
David Cameron and George Osborne have been quietly persuaded that a u-turn in party policy is needed, but are unwilling to make that their public stance until 2015.
In the meantime the aviation industry is getting impatient. Willie Walsh made his frustrations clear in an unusually outspoken and personal attack on the PM in the FT this morning. The chief executive of International Airlines Group, which controls BA, called the lack of progress a “disgrace”. He added:
I don’t believe this government has the political will to address the issues. David Cameron seems a lot happier clapping and cheering for gold medals than dealing with tough, long-term economic challenges.
He made clear his irritation particularly lay with the transport department, from which he said he had not seen “anything significant”.
All this puts the transport secretary, Justine Greening in a difficult position. She made her name as an MP in Putney campaigning against Heathrow expansion, which would have an impact on many of her constituents. If the government wants to get business people like Walsh back on board, Cameron may have no option but to jettison Greening after only a year in the job. Our analysis on the full situation is here.