Labour in London Votes to Halt Airport Expansion

By Cathy Cole

In one of only two “card votes” at London Labour Conference (in cases where the Chair is unable to adjudicate on a show of hands), delegates at London Labour Conference backed a motion on Climate Change moved by Hackney North CLP. Included in the text of the otherwise uncontroversial motion was a commtiment to halting further airport expansion. This was opposed by both UNITE and GMB on the grounds that such expansion would protect and create employment in the aviation industry, with both unions organising in the sector.

Despite fierce pressure to remit the motion, Hackney North refused and pressed it a vote. Such is the strength of the union affiliates (which make up 50% of the electoral college, along with affiliated socialist societies) the motion was only able to carry with overwhelming support from Constituency Labour Party delegates [over 70%] and the backing of public sector union UNISON.

With much concern expressed on the floor of conference about air pollution and carbon emissions, there is clearly widespread concern in the party not only over the prospect of a third runway at Heathrow, but also over airport expansion more generally.

The only other card vote was taken over a motion supporting the idea of a “People’s Vote”, ie. a second referendum on Brexit. Here unions including Unite, ASLEF and CWU abstained, whilst CLP delegates were significantly more divided than might have been expected, with 43% voting against the motion. Emily Thornberry received a distinctly lukewarm reception when she declared her support for a People’s Vote. If so many CLPs in London – the heart of Remain support – are as yet unpersuaded of the policy, we can only speculate about the mood in Labour’s Leave voting constituencies.

More generally, London Labour Conference saw the left almost sweep the board in elections to London Regional Board, with Unite’s Jim Kelly taking the position of Chair, and Haringey councillor Seema Chandwani take the Vice-Chair position.