Sporting Polemics, rightly or wrongly, hasn’t always been complimentary to Mr Jenkins. A little too willing to accommodate the excesses of corporate Britain. A little too ready to turn a blind eye to the real nature of corporate globalism. But in his latest opinion piece on airport expansion, despite his trademark pro- capitalist sentiment, he makes some very salient points. The essence of his argument can be summed up by his concluding paragraph which unambiguously asserts that the only real motivation for Heathrow expansion is one of corporate profit. Here is Simon Jenkins in his own words;

‘I have no trouble with corporations and capitalism but they must be subordinate to the overriding public interest and not mere money chasing. Heathrow lobbyists can pretend that “what is good for Heathrow is good for the nation”. They can spout nonsense about helping exports and being the best in Europe. We just need to keep calm and remember, they are in it for the money. All else is hogwash.’

Of course this is absolutely correct. Heathrow, like all Britain’s privatised utilities and major infrastructure is about maximising profits. The welfare of British citizens and the long-term development of the economy simply do not come into their calculations. This is the nature of modern capitalism - short-termism in the global money markets. The fact that the air quality across huge swathes of the capital is virtually unbreathable is of no concern to the corporate owners of Heathrow. Environmental concerns are just something to manoeuvre around by finance capital. What Jenkins can never seem to grasp is that finance capital will never allow itself to be ‘subordinate to the overriding public interest’. It simply is not in its DNA.

But notwithstanding the limitations of Jenkins’ argument, he does point his readers in a constructive direction. And that direction is decidedly away from Heathrow. He suggests that expanding Stanstead or Gatwick would be a more environmentally better option and he correctly points to the potential to devolving air traffic to provincial airports. And that is the key to the whole conundrum. If all the airports were back under public ownership, a rational plan could be constructed free from corporate lobbying. That plan might well conclude that Britain already has more than sufficient airport capacity if only it was more rationally utilised. Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester airports could all be part of the solution but the Davis commission did not even consider these options, Using Stanstead, Gatwick and Luton for short haul flights and Heathrow for the long haul market would free up runway capacity without the need to build any more runways at all, but again this solution was not even considered. Nor could it be while all our airports are in private corporate hands.

With just a few weeks until the international conference on man-made induced climate change, what a pity that Jenkins never thought to mention the possibility of shifting government subsidies from air travel to train travel.  In this way huge numbers of journeys to places like Scotland and the near continent could become cheap and efficient  train trips rather than highly inefficient and polluting air travel. Again, a national plan integrating rail, road and air travel might conclude that we simply don’t need any more runways at all. Of course corporate controlled Heathrow are not the slightest bit interested in these sorts of rational deliberations.

Heathrow is a vital battle ground for the newly invigorated Labour Party because Heathrow is a microcosm of the British economy itself – corporately owned and run in the interests of short term profits with little or no consideration for the quality of life of its inhabitants. Light touch regulation of these corporates is clearly not working in the public interest. A thorough programme of reintroducing intelligent, transparent and accountable public ownership is now the only viable option, but rest assured it will be resisted tooth and nail by the British establishment and the corporates that they are in hock to. I wonder which side Jenkins will take in such a battle? Sitting on his comfortable bourgeois fence, still dreaming of a mythical capitalism subordinate to the public interest, I wouldn’t be surprised.

End JPK Copyright 11/11/15

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 November 2015 21:25 )