London Mayor Boris Johnson lowered the stakes in his personal campaign to block growth at Heathrow airport, saying he won’t resign from City Hall or give up his parliamentary seat if expansion plans go ahead.
Speaking in an interview Friday, Johnson reiterated his opposition to a project he’s called “crackers.” But he said he wouldn’t feel it necessary to step down should Prime Minister David Cameron, his Conservative Party colleague, decide to act on a government-commissioned study recommending a new runway be built at Heathrow.
“I don’t think the Heathrow third-runway option has ever been credible,” Johnson said on Bloomberg Television. “It’s just going to be politically undeliverable, and we need a better long-term solution,” he said. “I certainly won’t be resigning as an MP, nor indeed as mayor of London, and I will be keeping my powder dry on any other positions I may wish to resign from.”
Johnson’s reluctance to put his career on the line over Heathrow contrasts with the stance of Zac Goldsmith, a fellow Tory lawmaker from west London. Goldsmith said after publication of the Airports Commission’s findings that he’d resign his parliamentary seat under the Heathrow flightpath and stand again on an anti-expansion ticket if Cameron breaks a previous pledge not to sanction a new runway.
Goldsmith is also bidding to be the Conservative candidate for mayor when Johnson steps down in 2016.
Cameron has said he’ll take a decision in the fall on whether to develop Heathrow into a 135 million-passenger-a-year superhub at a cost of 18 billion pounds ($28 billion) following the verdict of a study he ordered in 2012.
Johnson, who attends cabinet meetings on political issues after Cameron gave his potential successor a government role following May’s election, had lobbied for a completely new airport in the Thames estuary -- dubbed Boris Island by the U.K. media -- on the grounds that it would have less of an impact on people in terms of noise and pollution.
That option was dismissed early on by the Airports Commission as too costly and complex and likely to have a more detrimental impact on the natural environment.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and other senior Conservatives back Heathrow, as do key figures in the Labour opposition. Johnson declined to comment on his own ambitions to replace Cameron, or those of Osborne, who he said is doing a “superb job.”
“Most people would say there is a very good prime minister in place and there is a long time to go before David Cameron will be relinquishing the reins,” Johnson said.
After being the butt of a joke in Osborne’s summer budget and having plans to deploy water cannons in London blocked this week by Home Secretary Theresa May, Johnson dismissed the notion of simmering tensions between potential Tory leaders-in-waiting.
“It always suits our friends in the newspapers to find some areas of pseudo-friction and conflict between politicians because that’s what the narrative demands,” he said, describing the cabinet as in “a state of almost glutinous harmony.”
On the subject of Britain renegotiating its position in the European Union before a referendum on membership due by the end of 2017, Johnson said he’s “very optimistic” that Cameron will secure an “extremely good deal,”
“I don’t want to leave the EU,” he said. “I think the stakes are much lower than what they used to be. I think the arguments have changed from 40 years ago when Britain last had a referendum on this subject.”
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