Farron: Heathrow free vote would be farcical

Dearie me. Twice in a week, the government has been caught on the hop a top secret documents have been photographed and have appeared in the press. Unless, of course, it was planned that way. You never know, these days. Perhaps people think The Thick of It was a documentary or something. First it was grammar schools and now it’s the possibility of a free vote on Heathrow expansion  as Channel 4 news revealed:

In the second security breach of its kind in a week, a London Underground passenger filmed a very senior Cabinet Office civil servant holding a paper that discussed “potential waiving of collective responsibility” ahead of “the forthcoming decision around airport capacity”.

The document discusses the possibility of “allowing Ministers to speak against the government’s position in the House” as they did in the EU referendum campaign.

If the vote goes ahead it could end decades of bitter argument over the best way to increase capacity in southeast England.

Tim Farron was unimpressed at this development. He said:

The suggestion that there might be a free vote on Heathrow is farcical – this is a huge decision and the Conservative government has to make a collective decision and take full responsibility.   If people disagree they can resign.

Liberal Democrats are the only party consistently opposed to a third runway at Heathrow and we will fight any plans to allow it to be built.

Two questions arise. The first, of course, is how Zac Goldsmith feels about all of this. He has long opposed a third runway and threatened to resign as MP and cause a by-election if the Tories gave the third runway the go-ahead. He said he regrets this pledge but will honour it.

The second is to wonder where the limits are to Theresa May’s pandering to her party. She seems to be trying to create Torytopia, giving them everything a Tory could have possibly wanted from Brexit meaning Brexit to grammar schools to ditching the Human Rights Act. She’s doing her best to hang on to her majority of 12. I shudder to think what other catnip she’ll put out for Tory MPs.

It’s just awful that every single government decision is all about what is best to keep the peace in the Tory party regardless of what is best for the country. With the main opposition party in, to put it mildly, what would be called up here in Scotland a total bourach, they are making hay and stitching up the whole political system in their favour.

May is still very much on honeymoon. As a party we need to get ourselves into a state of readiness to make an impact when the shine starts to wear off.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • The vote needs taking – businesses have been waiting for years and there comes a point where uncertainty is the worst outcome of all.

    I can understand why Tim’s said what he has, but the thought of MPs engaging their brains and judging the national interest, instead of being lobby fodder, has an appeal to me. When you have to resign if you vote the wrong way, it’s funny how quickly you can be persuaded of the other side of the argument!

    Hoping all LD MPs vote against though – as per party policy we need to get serious about growing the national economy, rather than assuming the country will benefit where London leads.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Sep '16 - 11:08pm

    and against Gatwick, as per Amendment 4,

  • It’s easy to come up with a opposing consensus / don’t care position on Heathrow when you have no MPs impacted. I presume that the 8 MPs we have are of one voice but had there been strong views on both sides of the debate I have no doubt Tim would be fully supportive of a free vote.

    Tim’s call is that the payroll vote opposed to Heathrow should be strongly encouraged by a whip to vote in favour, thereby increasing the likelihood of an outcome we don’t want. Or they can resign and be replaced by people in favour of an outcome we don’t want. Why is this in our policy interest. Surely free vote helps our cause.

  • Ryan McAlister 11th Sep '16 - 1:24pm

    There should be more free votes, not less.

    Then we might inch towards having a functioning system of parliament scrutiny.

  • I am wary of a government who seems more equipped in winning votes based on misinformation than others going for an “unbreakable” democracy is democracy vibe. What a mess government has made of itself.

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