by John Stewart
The Sunday Times expose of Back Heathrow’s methods is significant – http://hacan.org.uk/?p=2753 . Not because Back Heathrow has hidden the fact it has received considerable funding from Heathrow Airport. It has made it clear from the early days that Heathrow had put money in. Much more because the Sunday Times reveals how Back Heathrow fails to spell out to the public it is trying to influence where its funding comes from. As the Sunday Times said, “Three of the four newsletters delivered during the past year fail to disclose that Back Heathrow is funded by the airport.”
This matters. If we get a leaflet through our door this Christmas extolling the virtues of Sainsbury’s mince pies over other brands, we will take much more notice of it if we believe it comes from a neutral body. Similarly, when a Back Heathrow leaflet warns that “114,000 jobs are at risk if Heathrow shuts down”, we are much more likely to be concerned if we believe Back Heathrow is a neutral body.
Concerned people sign up to Back Heathrow. Back Heathrow then can claim 50,000 supporters. The impression is given to politicians that there is growing support for a third runway at Heathrow.
The reality is different. There is no hard evidence that support for a 3rd runway is growing (or declining). We spelt this out in a blog in May of this year – http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=281:
“Last week Heathrow Airport claimed that there was more support now for a 3rd runway than when it was proposed by the last Labour Government. It cited a recent opinion poll of more than 1,000 local residents by Populus which showed 48% are in favour of a third runway while 34% oppose: http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Heathrow-Borough-Poll-March-2014.pdf. The reality is different. HACAN unearthed a Populus poll which revealed that in 2007 50% supported a 3rd runway and 30% against were against: http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/download_pdf-170907-BAA-Heathrow-Future-Heathrow-Poll.pdf”
Support for expansion has always hovered just under 50%, with around a third of people remaining firmly opposed. In actual numbers, that means hundreds of thousands of people don’t want expansion. That was enough to kill it off last time. Back Heathrow need to give politicians the impression that has changed; that a 3rd runway is deliverable. And they are prepared to use some questionable methods to do so.