MP angry at ‘outrageous’ Heathrow boundary plan
McDonnell hits out at group ‘that wants MP to effectively become a lapdog for airport’
A PRO-HEATHROW expansion campaign group has been accused of an ‘outrageous attempt at gerrymandering’ after launching a campaign to move the airport out of the Hayes constituency of Labour MP John McDonnell.
Campaign group Back Heathrow has written to the Boundary Commission calling for the constituency to be redrawn so the airport is outside of the Hayes and Harlington area, which is represented by the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, a vocal opponent of plans for expansion.
Back Heathrow’s director Rob Gray, who penned the letter, says residents are ‘proud of the airport’ and calls Mr McDonnell’s attitude ‘shameful’.
Mr Gray said: “If John McDonnell doesn’t value Heathrow then there are plenty of MPs and local authorities who would be happy to feel the benefit of the UK’s largest single site employer in their electoral areas.
“Mr McDonnell’s shameful attitude towards Heathrow is an unfunny joke and offensive to most of his constituents.”
Back Heathrow claims to represent more than 100,000 residents who live near the airport who are in favour of building a third runway.
John McDonnell has publicly opposed expanding Heathrow, calling it ‘a threat to our villages’.
In response to the letter, Mr McDonnell has condemned Back Heathrow as a ‘front organisation for Heathrow Airport PLC’ and has accused them of interfering in the Boundary Commission’s exercise.
Mr McDonnell said: “This is an unprecedented interference by a private company in a constitutional process. I have never heard of a private company trying to fix a constituency boundary like this and therefore interfere to fix a local Parliamentary election.
“By seeking to influence a constituency boundary to secure an MP that will effectively become a company lap dog is an outrageous attempt at gerrymandering.
“I will be raising this matter with the Speaker and the Boundary Commission.”
Sweeping changes to the current parliamentary constituencies have been proposed to reduce costs and even up the number of voters in each constituency. The number of MPs across the country would fall from 650 to 600, but the proposals have been criticised by the Labour Party who think changes would benefit the Conservatives.
In the letter, Back Heathrow state: “Many Hayes and Harlington residents are proud of the airport and are frustrated they are represented by a council and an MP as negative as Hillingdon’s John McDonnell.
“This negativity and lack of engagement has also caused considerable frustration within neighbouring local authorities which wish to maintain good relationships with Heathrow, the area’s largest employer. Mr McDonnell has been a vociferous opponent of Heathrow, rarely missing an opportunity to criticise the airport, despite thousands of his constituents relying on it for their livelihoods and being strong supporters.”
Back Heathrow suggested the new runway could be a Special Development Corporation, which would give all six planning authorities in the area a say.
A 12-week consultation on the initial proposals for new constituencies, published by the Boundary Commission, is currently under way.
The commission is set to make a recommendation on changes in September 2018.
The Prime Minister is expected to make a decision on expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick airports in October.
n PROTEST: John McDonnell with anti-expansion supporters