Boris Johnson has backed down over his proposal to close Heathrow Airport, suggesting that it could continue to exist as a secondary airport alongside his beloved four-runway "Boris Island" hub on the Thames Estuary.
His change of tack in the airport debate is conveniently timed, as he is vying to be MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, an area of London that would be affected by the job closures resulting from Heathrow's closure.
"As for the existing hub at Heathrow, you could keep an Orly-style airport," he wrote in his Telegraph column today. "But you could also release huge quantities of prime land as a wonderful new district for London."
Johnson was swiftly mocked today for being "all over the place" by Tory home affairs committee member Mark Reckless, who warned that Heathrow "must close" to make his "pie in sky" Thames Estuary airport work.
Boris still all over the place (re)reversing position LHR must close to make pie in sky estuary airport viable. Now say stay open like Orly
— Mark Reckless MP (@MarkReckless) September 1, 2014
The London Mayor was adamant last year that the best way forward for increasing Britain's aviation capacity was to build his "Boris Island" and demolish Heathrow, replacing it with a village that could house 250,000 people. Heathrow Airport warned in response that Johnson's "extraordinary" ideas could put as many as 114,000 people's jobs at risk.
He has continued to back the demolition of Heathrow, appointing architects in May to help bring his "Heathrow City" vision to life.
The London Mayor's decision to back down over demolishing Heathrow comes after critics pointed out the impact it would cause for the Uxbridge locals that he aspires to represent in Parliament.
"Bold, Boris still wants to axe jobs at Heathrow - presumably including those who live in Uxbridge," Labour frontbencher John Spellar observed.
bold Boris still wants to axe jobs at Heathrow - presumably including those who live in Uxbridge !http://t.co/OzFtUfz3Ns
— john spellar (@spellar) August 30, 2014
In his Telegraph column, Johnson made a bigger fuss of how "barbarically contemptuous" it would be to built a third runway at Heathrow, as he has consistently argued.
He argued the UK stood to lose its position as a "great trading nation" without further airport capacity, adding: "What frustrates me is that third runway (at Heathrow) is so desperately short-sighted."
"You could not conceivably get it built before 2029, by the airport's own admission - and as soon as it opened it would be full".
Johnson's comments coming as the business lobby group the CBI demanded "spades in the ground by 2020".
CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said: "UK business wants action. There can be no more excuses - we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.
"With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity."
The Airports Commission is preparing to give its verdict on how best to increase Britain's airport capacity. Chairman Sir Howard Davies bowed to pressure to look at Johnson's "Boris Island" after it was left out of the initial shortlist, which only included the options of expanding Heathrow and Gatwick.