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3 - The anatomy of an expert Commission: Howard Davies, rhetorical reframing and the performance of leadership

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2024

Steven Griggs
Affiliation:
Staffordshire University
David Howarth
Affiliation:
University of Essex
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Summary

The New Labour government's ATWP (2003) confidently set out its ambitious plans for airport expansion for the next 30 years. But its delivery was dogged by major setbacks and reversals. For one thing, its vision of the policies and practices of sustainable aviation were discredited by an anti-expansion campaign of local resident groups, scientific and environmental lobbies and direct action environmentalists, as well as institutions internal to the British state, not least the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). The anti-expansion campaign also voiced its concerns and demands in various arenas, exposing the intensifying contradictions between proposed airport expansions, aviation's rising carbon emissions, and the challenge of climate change. Indeed, by the end of the 2000s, as public awareness of climate change grew stronger, environmental protesters and activists had successfully turned the practice of flying into an emblematic issue in the struggle to tackle climate change. Although the Brown government had given the go-ahead for the building of a third runway at Heathrow in 2009, it was to be the last throw of the dice for a government that had in many ways already lost the argument in favour of expansion. It was no great surprise when the courts blocked proposals for the third runway in 2010, only weeks before the general election (Bowcott et al, 2010).

The arrival in office of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after the closely fought 2010 general election made possible a challenge to the embedded expansionist ‘predict and provide’ policies. In opposition, David Cameron, the then leader of the Conservative Party, had grabbed hold of the issue of climate change as part of his efforts to detoxify the party, announcing his ‘no ifs, no buts, no third runway’ slogan to opponents of expansion at Heathrow in 2009 – a pledge that was to haunt his and future governments in the next decade and beyond (Jenkins, 2016). The Coalition’s 2010 Programme for Government duly promised to stop the expansion of airports in South East England, and the subsequent appointment of Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Transport in October 2011 – a vocal opponent of expansion at Heathrow – seemed to confirm the Coalition’s commitment to move away from ‘predict and provide’ policies.

Type
Chapter
Information
Contesting Aviation Expansion
Depoliticisation, Technologies of Government and Post-Aviation Futures
, pp. 73 - 102
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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