Gold Medal to Steve Norris for his stand against tawdry journalism

by John Stewart

A gold medal to Steve Norris for standing up to media misrepresentation.  Olympic Sunday started with the Sunday Telegraph implying the former Conservative transport minister supported a third runway at Heathrow, opposed HS2 and was attacking current government transport policy in general – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/9451726/Former-Tory-transport-ministers-attack-Coalition-over-Heathrow-and-HS2.html  By the end of the day he had tweeted: “SunTel says I attack govt transport policy, oppose HS2 and want LHR3. Completely wrong on all 3. Incredible.”

He went further with a late evening blog – http://www.iaindale.com/posts/stansted-should-be-the-new-hub-airport?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter: “This is what I think, not what a deputy political editor in the Sunday Telegraph tells you I think, on the subject of Tory transport policy.  For the record, and in direct contradiction of what is said, I support HS2 and would be happy to argue the case with anyone seriously interested…. [and the third runway] is a completely unacceptable and ludicrous proposition.  The Conservatives were right to take that view in their election manifesto.  Boris Johnson has stood firm on exactly that ground and Maria Eagle, Labour’s Transport Shadow, moved swiftly to put her party in the same spot”.

Whatever one’s thoughts about Norris’s idea of building a second hub airport at Stansted, we can only applaud his firm stance in exposing a newspaper that tried to twist his views to suit its own ends.  Far too often, over the last 9 months or so, a journalist or a newspaper, in support of the aviation industry’s frantic and frenetic marketing campaign for airport expansion, has slanted a story to back up its position.  In the words of Justine Greening, the current Transport Secretary, it has been no more than ‘a pub-style debate’ devoid of hard evidence: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/minister-in-shock-warning-on-more-heathrow-runways-7880609.html

The Sunday Telegraph article which Steve Norris objected to was a particularly dire example of this pub-style debate.

Its headline screamed:

Former Tory transport ministers attack Coalition over Heathrow and HS2

Three former Conservative transport ministers have attacked the Government’s airport and rail strategy, urging the Coalition to press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow and abandon the controversial £32 billion HS2 rail project”.

Robert Watts, the paper’s deputy political editor, opened his piece with the words: “Lord Parkinson, Steve Norris and Christopher Chope believe the Government’s delay over its airport policy is damagingBritain’s economic interests”.  However, careful reading of the article, shows that only Lord Parkinson, the former Cecil Parkinson and a man long retired from frontline politics, was actually backing a third runway at Heathrow.

Steve Norris has been a long-time opponent of a third runway at Heathrow.  I sat as an independent on the transport panel of the Conservatives Quality of Life Commission which they set up whilst in opposition.  Steve Norris chaired the transport panel. He made it clear his opposition to a third runway.  Subsequently, he has made his views known publically.  The Sunday Telegraph must have known this.  It simply didn’t suit its purposes to record them accurately.  He is to be applauded for standing up to this tawdry journalism.

John Stewart

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