Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader of Labour party could scupper plans for third runway at Heathrow

Corbyn has joined the likes of Boris Johnson in opposing the plans

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Indy Politics

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party could scupper plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport after he came out against the project.

Although the three other Labour contenders all support the plan to expand Heathrow, the left-wing backbencher has become the bookmakers’ favourite to win the contest. Supporting nominations by constituency Labour parties closed at midnight. Late on 31 July Mr Corbyn was ahead with 147, followed by Andy Burnham on 110; Yvette Cooper on 109 and Liz Kendall on 18.  Members vote individually and do not have to attend nomination meetings, but the figures are another sign of the strong grassroots support for Mr Corbyn.

Labour’s stance on Heathrow matters because David Cameron is believed to be moving in favour of the third runway endorsed in July by the Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies. However, the Prime Minister might need the votes of the Labour Opposition to secure Commons backing for the plan, because several Conservative MPs would almost certainly vote against it – including Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and Zac Goldsmith, who hopes to succeed him in the job next May.

Mr Corbyn told The Independent: “A third runway at Heathrow would mean 4,000 homes demolished and 10,000 people displaced. It would cause massive increases in noise and air pollution and inflict misery on hundreds of thousands of Londoners. UK air pollution is already above EU limits, and 30,000 people are dying every year because of it.”

A plane takes off from Heathrow Airport (Getty)

The Islington North MP added: “We should be ensuring our existing national and regional airports are linked effectively by public transport and work together to maximise existing capacity and help spread economic benefits across the country.”

In contrast, Mr Burnham believes it is time to “just get on with it” following the Davies report. He is backing Michael Dugher, one of his supporters, who as shadow Transport Secretary last month  dropped Labour’s opposition to Heathrow expansion under Ed Miliband.

Ms Kendall was the first leadership runner to endorse  a third runway.  She said: “The country has to get behind this now - the time for fudge and indecision is over. Many thousands of jobs right across the country depend on Britain maintaining an international hub airport that keeps pace with the rest of the world. With my leadership, Labour will be a party of jobs and work – so I will back the commission's decision. We need to act now."

Ms Cooper, who has put tackling climate change at the heart of her leadership campaign, said the Heathrow project should go ahead provided the environmental safeguards proposed by the commission are introduced. She said: “We have spent a very long time on this; we do need to get on with it. The experts have looked at it and made a recommendation. I think we should go with it.”

Before the 2010 election, Mr Cameron gave a “no ifs, no buts” pledge to oppose a third runway, but ministers say the latest scheme is very different to the one proposed then.  He has appointed two strong supporters of Heathrow expansion, the Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid, to a Cabinet committee that will consider the Davies blueprint, while omitting five Cabinet ministers who oppose it.

Heathrow has also split the candidates hoping to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayor next May. Dame Tessa Jowell and Gareth Thomas back expansion  but it is opposed by Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott and Christian Wolmar, while David Lammy would support it if there were a new regulator with powers to limit noise and air pollution.