Perhaps it was inevitable. The by-election called on the issue of a third runway might become a test-bed for all sorts of other issues.
And I don’t mean the circus of quirky candidates who are bound to roll up. Some of them may be entertaining; a lot of will be downright irritating; but all of them will be irrelevant.
It’s what the main parties do that matters. The Liberal Democrats and the Greens have been staunch opponents of a third runway. They were also firmly in the Remain camp and have the right to bring up both issues at this election.
What really gets me is the call from some Remainers to back a unity candidate to unseat Zac Goldsmith. For many the issue is not just Brexit but also the last Mayoral campaign and for some like the left-leaning Compass a chance to take the first step to form a ‘progressive’ alliance to defeat the Conservatives nationally at next General Election or the one after.
This sort of talk makes so many HACAN supporters bristle with anger. In our long flight against a 3rd runway most of these people have been nowhere. Indeed, many of them supported Heathrow expansion. They haven’t even – unlike Heathrow Airport – thought about measures to ameliorate the impact of expansion.
Many people in West London are in a dark place right now. Some fear losing their homes and communities; others dread the thought of a living under a flight path for the first time. They applaud what Zac Goldsmith has done. His decision to trigger this by-election has given them a glimmer of hope in their hour of darkness. It’s their by-election. It’s their issue.
For the Remainers to come marching in and try to turn this by-election into something else is to trample on the deep fears many local people have of Heathrow expansion.
Debate between Zac Goldsmith and other political parties will happen and is what elections are about but Remainers and others who want to use this by-election for their own ends should remain out of Richmond.
John Stewart, 30th October 2016