LETTER: Powerful lobby of vested interests

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The letter from C. Morris (October 9) concerning the need for more informed debate over the Gatwick second runway proposal rightly highlights the need to make a clear distinction between the private and public interests at stake and recognise the potential conflict between them.

In this he echoes the point made in your admirable editorial of August 14 – Democratic process or free-for-all? – in which you stressed the need for the interests of the community as a whole to prevail.

A key point in Mr Morris’ letter is that there is no clearly demonstrated need for a new runway anywhere in the country.

What there is is a powerful lobby of vested interests – comprising the CBI, the City, the major airlines and the (privatised) airport operators themselves, often uncritically supported by the national press – constantly bombarding us with propaganda to the effect that without such an extra runway the nation risks decline to Third World status.

It may be noticed that the same syndrome is present in the promotion of other major infrastructure projects – such as the HS2 railway (the economic justification for which is widely recognised as a joke), new nuclear power stations requiring a 50 per cent public subsidy or even more modest projects such as the ‘state-of-the-art’ business park currently proposed for North Horsham as part of the HDPF, for which there is no meaningful commercial demand (while a large and growing area of office space in the locality lies empty when it could easily be brought back into use – upgraded if necessary – if only the market were there).

What all these projects have in common – apart from their manifest wastefulness – is that, if implemented, they offer investors and developers an opportunity to realise quick profits on speculative investments or generously priced construction contracts even if the projects themselves make no commercial or economic sense.

They can do this in the confident belief that the inevitable losses arising can be passed on to the public (whether as users or taxpayers) courtesy of whichever government is in power, given that all the main political parties are perceived as being susceptible to the kind of subversive lobbying power identified in your editorial.

Equally, they know they can treat the non-financial costs – in the shape of damage to the environment and public health (increased aerial and noise pollution), greater congestion and loss of amenity – as someone else’s problem.

If as a nation we wish to escape from this ruinous institutionalised corruption of our government we should refuse to vote for any party that fails to commit itself (as a minimum) to implementing the latest proposals of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (November 2011) on party political funding - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/political-party-finance-ending-the-big-donor-culture - which would substitute state funds for private contributions to parties (but at negligible cost to the taxpayer) and would limit personal contributions to a maximum of £10,000 annually.

The fact that politicians of all parties (along with the complicit mainstream media) refuse even to hold a serious debate on this vital issue – or even to consider measures to criminalise all MPs or officials for allowing lobbyists to treat them as ‘cabs for hire’ (as they have been self-described by a Blairite former cabinet minister).

Defenders of the new runway and similar unnecessary projects will tell us that they also promote much needed employment and economic growth.

Yet it has to be wondered why, in a time of supposed austerity, we can afford to squander money on such manifestly wasteful schemes when there are supposedly no funds available to meet the desperate needs of our crumbling public services – and the building of genuinely affordable homes in places where they are needed to meet the intensifying housing crisis – which would do at least as much to sustain growth and employment while also saving people’s lives rather than destroying them.

HARRY SHUTT

Allingham Gardens, Horsham