Mayor of London Boris Johnson has accused the government of “pussy-footing around” on a crucial transport policy, in a broadside at Prime Minister David Cameron, a fellow Conservative whom Johnson looks increasingly likely to try and replace.
After the success of the London Olympics, which gave 61 percent of Britons a more positive view of him according to an Ipsos MORI poll, Johnson’s comments in a press interview were widely seen as new evidence that he wants the top job one day.
Portraying himself as a dynamic, can-do politician, the mayor drew an unflattering comparison with Cameron whom he suggested had got bogged down by “institutional capture”.
He dismissed as “nonsense” speculation that he might seek election to parliament during his mayoral term, but did not rule out a parliamentary bid after leaving City Hall in 2016. A seat in the House of Commons would be a necessary first step towards a challenge for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
“What the Olympics has done is to confirm in a lot of people’s minds around the world that London is the capital of the planet,” Johnson told the Evening Standard newspaper.
“What I think the government should do is make a very powerful statement of ambition for London.”
One way to do so, he said, would be to build a new airport in the Thames estuary to reduce the strain on Heathrow. The plan, which would involve building an artificial island, has been nicknamed “Boris Island” since he endorsed it last year.
“The government needs to stop pussy-footing around. I don’t think you can rely on Heathrow,” he told the Standard.
Many British businesses want a third runway to ease the capacity crunch at London’s hub airport, but most Londoners oppose the plan because it would worsen the already serious problem of noise pollution from aircraft flying over the city.
Johnson said the government would be “mad and wrong” to go for a third runway.
The government, which has a wider range of interests to consider and is divided over options, has twice delayed the launch of a consultation about the airports conundrum.
“The attempt to try and long-grass it for three years into the other side of the (2015 parliamentary) election is just not realistic. Totally mad and it won’t work,” said Johnson.