Jeff Jones: The idea of Cardiff as Heathrow’s sixth terminal is fantasy

Before starting to write this article I had just put the finishing touches to my exciting proposal to create thousands of jobs in South Wales involving massive foreign investment from one of the world’s largest economies.

The proposal, which is now on its way to President Putin, is to turn Porthcawl into a base for the Russian Baltic fleet. Before you all start to laugh, it is just as plausible as the idea that Cardiff Airport could be the “sixth terminal” for Heathrow.

It really is Alice in Wonderland economics and a classic example of what happens when politicians fail to take decisions.

Instead of playing the Government’s game of delaying decisions, everyone should be condemning Westminster for once again refusing to make a decision for short-term political reasons.


The Davies Commission to look at airport capacity is yet another waste of time and money.

As Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, pointed out: “All of this ground was covered 10 years ago when we produced the White Paper on aviation in December 2003.”

Listening to Sir Howard Davies, I was struck by the fact that the arguments haven’t changed one jot in 10 years.

At the end of the day any decision will not be influenced by any of the submissions or by Sir Howard’s Commission.

It will be made by politicians but it will be made – surprise, surprise – after the next election.

An election, of course, which will see every successfully elected MP on the Heathrow flight path campaigning to oppose a third runway at Britain’s largest airport.

This will probably allow the new Government to once again echo Churchill’s famous remarks on discussions over the UK’s entry into the First World War – “to decide not to decide”.

While the Chinese build 52 new airports, we do what we are really good at – setting up yet another committee to look at a problem and in the process kick it into the long grass.

But it isn’t just this Government that has caught the Welsh disease of committees. Look at the failure of the last Government to tackle the issue of energy when everyone knew that the UK’s power stations were coming to the end of their life span.

Last week on the web I came across the Assembly’s efficiency and innovation programme to tackle what it called “meeting the challenge of change”.

There were seven committees involving 110 individuals. Not very efficient or innovative in my opinion.

Michael Heseltine can produce any number of reports calling for action to reverse the UK’s decline but nothing will happen until we tackle a political culture dominated by individuals whose first instinct, like Clive Rowlands in that famous game against Scotland in the 1960s, is to kick to touch.

The challenge is how do you change a political culture which too often seems stuck in the political tribalism of the last century?

Ironically the answer, some argue, might be found at the beginning of the 20th century, when Teddy Roosevelt raised the banner of Progressivism in the United States and Lloyd George the banner of New Liberalism in the UK. Both were interested in economic progress and ensuring that ordinary people shared in it.

They were also men of action, prepared to look at new ideas and prepared to take a risk. Just the sort of politicians we need but, sadly, who are hardly likely to succeed in a world dominated by politicians more interested in PR than principle.


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