Later on last night I was invited to dinner by BAA along with eight or nine others. As regular readers know, I have had some critical things to say about BAA and its airports in the past. I sat next to Tom Kelly, who is now their Director of Communications, having previously spent sic years working in Number Ten as Tony Blair's Official Spokesman. We had some interesting discussions about so-called BORIS ISLAND, the airport which might (or might not!) be built in the Thames Estuary.
I made the point that at the very least it merits a full feasibility study - and I believe Boris will announce this later this week. The general view within the airports sector is that it would be impractical and too expensive and that if politicians think protests at Heathrow are loud, they are nothing compared to what would happen here. They may be right.
However, if the Conservatives are to cancel a third runway at Heathrow - as the Guardian alleges this morning - then either further capapcity needs to be found elsewhere to we accept that the business will go to our European competitor airports. Personally, I think this would be madness, but it's a debate which needs to be had. It's a bit like the Trident issue. The government made a decision before there was a full public debate on whether the replacement of Trident really fitted into our future defence needs. We're getting this arse about face. Surely the debate should come before the decision.
There are many advantages to building a new airport and there are clearly some disadvantages too. But if Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted cannot meet capacity demands, then we need to have an informed discussion anout the alternatives.
Aviation is an incredibly important part of our economy, and whatever the envionmental movement might say, it would be a tragedy if we saw it enter a period of gradual decline. But that's where we're heading now.