Mark Leftly: Weather chaos shoots down Gatwick's expansion plans

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The Independent Online

Westminster Outlook The minds of politicians and business bosses work very differently. MPs are, typically, marvellously impressive at linking very disparate topics with a single thread of argument; directors believe this is disingenuous at best.

Politicians essentially set traps, into which the leaders of Britain's biggest companies, no matter how well briefed, constantly seem to fall during select committee hearings.

Gatwick's chief executive, Stewart Wingate, thought he was at a transport inquiry on Tuesday to explain why the airport had left thousands of passengers stranded following a power failure. The almost unique scale of flooding was to blame, and he was prepared to apologise.

What he didn't expect was that the MPs before him saw this as an opportunity to shoot down Gatwick's plans for a second runway. How on earth could Gatwick expect to become a hub airport when it can't even cope with a bit of flooding?

Any environmental concerns would, of course, be factored into any future plans. But the accusation was stronger than the fairly sensible response.

Heathrow executives must have been smiling like Cheshire cats at something they could never have forecast: that unpredictable weather has strengthened their own case for expansion.