Mr. McLoughlin has two extremely difficult years of work ahead
In the last few days all the media in the world are following the story of the reshuffle of the British government. The most discussed news is the one about the confirmation of George Osbourne as Chancellor, a decision that has given the creeps to the Labour Party and to the majority of the British people. Mr. Osbourne is not loved, and the booing received Monday evening during the medal ceremony at the Paralympic Games are the confirmation of data collected by a survey from the Guardian: the 48% of voters did not appreciate his strategies and they would see him be replaced.
What surprised me, however, was another matter, for me an important factor: the change of the Secretary of State for Transport. The change of Secretary in the Department for Transport could be seen as a normal thing in any government reshuffle, but in this case confirms the speculations made by most of the public about the British problem of transport, in particular the problem of London’s airports, and about the fact that the coalition does not know how to handle the problem.
There have been discussions for years about the fact that London needs better airport facilities if it want to be confirmed as the first European hub. The discussion is on and involves everyone, politicians, businessmen, environmentalists and ordinary people, but still there is not an idea that makes everyone happy.
The ideas are:
1) Third runway and expansion of London Heathrow;
2) The “Boris Island“, a mega airport built on the estuary of the River Thames and connected with high-speed trains;
3) A more intelligent use of the five airports existing and possible expansion of London Stansted and/or London Gatwick
The discussion is focused in particular on which idea is better between the solution number one and solution number two. The number three was added later as an alternative idea but was never fully considered.
As usual, many discussions have not led to anything concrete and the rift between supporters of the two projects is constantly increasing.
The change of the Minister of Transport has reignited controversy and made it clear to the public opinion that not only the government does not know how to solve the issue but also that even within the Conservative party there is not a common strategy.
A few hours after the announcement of the new Cabinet, the conservative mayor of London, and likely future leader of the party, Boris Johnson, has loudly accused Cameron of making a “U-turn” on the airport issue. Johnson is the promoter of the new Thames estuary airport, ironically called by the media “Boris Island”, and is against the third runway at Heathrow.
After the announcement of the removal of the Minister Greening, a supporter of the non-expansion of Heathrow, the mayor of London has pointed the finger at Cameron declaring that “the government wants to ditch promises and send yet more planes over central London”. The discussion is far from finding a solution to will make everyone happy.
The unfortunate new Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, told the press to be “excited and happy” for the role but he knows he got a hard nut to crack, squeezed between both sides of the two factions and with a PM who looks unable to impose its own ideas.
It seemed only a change of management at the Ministry of Transport, but is likely to be one of the keys of Cameron’s future in Westminster.
Published on the website of the Italian newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” on Thursday the 06th of September 2012 under the title “Londra, il nuovo ministro dei Trasporti accende vecchie polemiche“