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'Between a Rock and a Hard Place': The Coalition, the Davies Commission and the Wicked Issue of Airport Expansion

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Abstract

In 2010, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition placed a moratorium on airport expansion in the south-east of England. In office, however, it has faced a sustained political campaign from supporters of the aviation industry and expansion, leading to the appointment in September 2012 of the Davies Commission on airport capacity. This paper critically evaluates this nascent policy reversal in aviation policy, analysing the political backlash in favour of expansion and the political mediation of such demands by the Coalition. It argues that while the shifting political context has placed new pressures on the coalition, its current difficulties cannot be divorced from the continued resonance of the logic of aviation expansion embedded in British institutions at the end of the Second World War. The paper concludes with an assessment of the challenges facing the Davies Commission, the coalition and campaigners, when set against the continued ‘grip’ of aviation on our collective consciousness.

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