Stanstead Runway of PR Fail: “Excuse me madam – the 80s just called. They want their counterproductive lifestyle politics back?”

It never ends...

The Revolution never ends...

Been dead quiet here for a very good reason. Changing gigs takes some doing, especially these days. But all the blood, sweat, tears and sacrificed chickens look to have paid off…

In the meantime I could not help noticing the modern day Millie Tants of ‘Plane Stupid’ et al getting up to more mischief. However, on a PR level these techniques have jumped the shark more times than a blocky 1980s video game character.

A little while back there was a pathetic, Mitford-esque attempt to hijack the anniversary of the Suffragettes ‘Rush’ into the Houses of Parliament. In terms of historical association obscenties this was like naming a municipal sewage works after Nelson Mandela. Leading the charge for justice was the fruity Boden catalogue ready baronet’s daughter Tamsin Omond. A media darling, she bragged about being a modern day Rosa Parks who was ready to break her bail conditions in order to save the world from naughty planes via ‘direct action’ stunts. Unfortunately, exposure to a police cell proved a less than optimum lifestyle choice, despite the champagne radical bluster spewed beforehand, so she has disappeared sheepishly back to Belsize Park.

Picture the scene: you’ve got far enough out of the bottom of your overdraft to sneak off to Barcelona for a few days to pretend everything is OK, the economy will recover, a life of debt, stress, cramped housing, third world infrastructure and big bills is tolerable etc. You get in a taxi costing the GDP of many tropical nations to slide into Stanstead for a 6am cattle car flight and lo and behold, a load of chanting, novelty haired poshos have profaned the tarmac – meaning your pathetic little break is a no-go. If I was the protagonist in this story, the next chapter would involve a hijacked chemical toilet servicing rig, an improvised flamethrower and a trip to Broadmoor.

Whatever the politics of the matter (the idea that a load of carbon emissions were ‘prevented’ is more childish than taking a battery farmed egg home and sitting on it to save the chickens of the earth) and the futility of UK self flagellation on climate change in a big big scary world where global limits and cap/trade is the only way, the tactic backfired as badly as the consumption of tinned chilli in a gas cooker showroom. Yes, there was a tonne of coverage of the plucky, joyous crew, but the organisers seemed to have taken the false adage that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ literally.

For almost all the coverage focused on BAA’s rubbish security, angry holidaymakers and the fact that most of the ‘protesters’ come from privileged backgrounds. Some so much so that Daddy’s South Bucks back garden is large enough to get lost in anyway, so who needs Ryanair? This will have done untold damage to the anti-aviation cause. A better case could be made around resident’s rights, lack of need in a recession, BAA is evil, etc etc in the old patient, reasonable way that actually gets things done. Like the anti-Heathrow folk.

Which brings me to a strange PR absence that I’ve only seen noted in an FT leader and an Evening Standard profile with BA’s Willie Walsh. Why has this industry let loud, often inaccurate opponents have all the running for years? The UK’s airports are full to bursting and new runways can actually mean LESS carbon as there is less circling and time on the tarmac, planes get quieter and more efficient every year etc etc. Air travel is a small and growing source of carbon, but will remain a marginal problem compared to electricity generation and other sources for many decades.  No-one has even begun to make this case, leaving green dreamers and a shamefully opportunistic Conservative Party to dance on the grave of much needed infrastructure upgrades and, yes, the right of ordinary people to travel.  In the end, many climate experts say that loft insulation is more important than aviation in emissions terms, but of course that would be a rather diffuse target for world changing fun days out.

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