Richard Ingrams’s Week: This is the worst time for a third runway at Heathrow

Share
Related Topics

There is something very odd about the great third runway debate. The Government, supported by all kinds of business and City interests, insists that Heathrow has to expand as a matter of emergency. At the same time the industry is in a state of crisis with falling numbers of passengers, staff being laid off and in some cases national carriers going bust.

And you can't even blame it on the credit crunch because all this started happening long before the fall of Lehman Brothers. Nor is it solely an economic issue. The fact is that, thanks partly to the elaborate new security checks, people have been put off air travel and will now do anything they can to avoid it.

So how do you reconcile all that with the drive for bigger and better airports – not just Heathrow but Stansted?

To get the answer you have to look at the kind of language ministers use to justify the expansion. It is not remotely specific and suggests that to them an airport is merely a status symbol. To begin with, Heathrow is described as a hub. And not just any old hub. A vital hub. But what does it mean?

Then there is talk of maintaining London's access to world markets or the need to upgrade international connections. In the pre-crunch days we might have been impressed by that kind of talk. But nowadays people have less and less confidence in businessmen and bankers, let alone government ministers. The notion, for example, that the City is a vital magnet on which our prosperity depends now seems ludicrous.

For these and other reasons the anti-runway protesters will have massive support and I don't expect to see the third runway in my lifetime.

Who'd be a newspaper magnate?

In the course of a week's commuting to London, I have acquired a paperback novel, a desk diary, a Thermos flask and a handsome new umbrella. All free of charge, all courtesy of the Evening Standard, which generously gave them away when I bought the paper.

But will there be any more free umbrellas if the paper is sold, as has been reported this week, to a former member of the KGB, Mr Alexander Lebedev, a close associate of the one-time Soviet leader Mr Gorbachev?

Already there is muttering about the propriety of allowing one of our oldest newspapers to be sold to a foreigner.

We ought to bear in mind the fact that newspaper owners in this country have never been distinguished for their respectability. The most famous proprietor of all, Lord Northcliffe, was insane, while his brother, the Daily Mail's owner Lord Rothermere was a keen admirer of Hitler.

In our time, the Daily Mirror 's owner Robert Maxwell was a big-time crook who would have ended up in prison if he hadn't first jumped off his yacht, while the former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph, Conrad Black, is currently serving a long prison sentence in America for fraud.

These are hard times for journalists and we all should just be grateful that there are still a few rich men around who want to own newspapers, even if they may be crooks and fraudsters as the above. In comparison, Mr Lebedev the KGB man seems quite respectable, but if there are still to be free umbrellas, will there be poison in the tip?

It's a bird-eat-bird world, so keep the buzzards out

For some time I have been inviting controversy in this column by arguing against the reintroduction into this country of large birds of prey such as kites, eagles and buzzards, the point being that while small songbirds are on the decline, it makes no sense to encourage the spread of more and more predators that prey on them.

A vivid illustration came this week with dramatic pictures of a rare wading bird, the grey phalarope, being swooped on by a fierce buzzard and carried off to be eaten. The phalarope stood no chance against its predator.

Whenever I mention this issue, particularly with reference to my special bugbear, the red kites, colonies of which are now commonplace in the Home Counties, the birds' defenders write in to say that the kites are lazy, friendly creatures that feed on carrion and help to tidy up the environment in a helpful kind of spirit. The RSPB is particularly good at spreading this pro-kite propaganda.

Apropos this week's buzzard atrocity, an RSPB spokesman was advancing the same type of argument. The attack on the phalarope, he said, was a one-in-a-million chance as "buzzards are not really active hunters".

For information on birds, I prefer to rely on the great ornithologist and engraver Thomas Bewick. He writes of the buzzard in his famous book British Birds, "It feeds on birds, small quadrupeds, reptiles and insects", adding that, to help presumably with his artwork, he was presented with a dead buzzard that had been shot while eating a partridge it had just killed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EYFS Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require an ex...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: Waiting on the telephone, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

John Rentoul
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home