The last few days have been hectic so I haven't even had time to blog the full council meeting which happened last Tuesday; and with it, "that" debate on Norwich Airport.
I was worried that blogging about it a few days later I might be squeezed out of the post-debate analysis, but seen as the man of the moment hasn't blogged about it himself, I may have gotten away with it. The night started with a group of protestors outside City Hall and soon enough Leader of the Council Steve Morphew was batting away public questions about the subject. Why they had to ask public questions with a debate already lined up was beyond me, but seen as it is the usual Green Party crowd (and, yes, living with a Green Councillor does count as being part of the crowd) then at least they won't be able to ask another question for 6 months. Morphew certainly didn't hold back with his support for the airport and I think facing the green-mob made a strong line easier than otherwise it might have been.
When the debate finally came, I spoke at length about the challenges facing the aviation industry in general and Norwich Airport in particular. I challenged other parties to recognise 2 issues; firstly the economic impact of the airport on the City. Also the liberty issue; would we really want to start preaching to people about where, when and how they take their holidays? Both Labour and LibDem Leaders agreed with my interpretation of the issues and made sound speeches supporting the Airport.
Then the Greens stepped forward ... when I laid down the motion I knew that the Greens wouldn't be happy (they want fewer and fewer flights, leading one day to nil I'm sure) so unlike the A11 motion where their opposition took me by surprise (I thought Ramsay's political radar would have been better) I knew what was coming. Or did I?
After his woeful ranting performance last month, Cllr Read didn't lead off for the Greens. Despite being Transport Spokesman that job was left to Cllr Gledhill - perhaps Ramsay thougth better of letting Read loose on the public again? Well, Gledhill surprised us all by being absolutely attrocious. Now I like Gledhill and think he is passionate about his issues; but my fear he may do a hatchett job was short lived. His speech was dull, badly scripted and hardly structured at all - talking from behind a list of stats rarely works. Monotone and without any real themes; I'm afraid it was a very poor job. But then they started to swop notes and let a new Councillor take over for another 3 minutes of the same. Cllrs Jeraj, Makof and Bearman all did the same (although Janet's story about her holiday did lift the gloom somewhat). And then stepped up dear Cllr Read ... I think more annoyed about the pisspoor efforts of his own party.
However, Morphew has taken away his legs before he had got up - by quoting back at Read something he said a few years back saying it was none of his concern if the airport closed. So Read had to start off by justifying his own position. Ramsay even tried coming in to say he was confused by the motion, before being rebutted by others who said the only confusion was the Green position.
Of course we won the vote but the debate was rather bitty and lacked the spark which some has predicted. The three major parties all stayed their ground and instead of letting the Greens assault our walls, we went out and met them on their ground. The Green response was not good and despite using around half their group to speak their dependence on stats and "evidence" let them down. They didn't have an alternative to sell (they couldn't, for example, say what capacity they thought the airport should have) and didn't speak with the passion which you might imagine. No matetr what other councillors said, they got their heads down and stuck to the script. No bouncing off their opposition, too rigid and too badly prepared.
So a good motion passed by a Council now determined to see the Airport work, but the debate lacked spark.