Finding himself at a loose end in Ramsgate on Friday night Ratty decided to take himself off to that noted social venue, the Kent International Airport Consultative Committee. Things got off to a fiery start as a member of the public leapt to his feet just as the meeting began and launched an uncontrolled tirade of anger and frustration at Charles Buchanan and Bob Bayford. As he complained about the impact of low-flying aircraft on his home and family some of the nastier members of the audience loudly advised him to move house, clearly believing that driving people from their house and home was an entirely normal and proper function of a local airport.
Charles Buchanan admitted that the airport was still losing colossal amounts of money. Bob Bayford told the public that he was doing them a huge favour by having a consultation on night flights at all then went on to explain exactly how it would be fixed to get the outcome he wanted. At several points and later when asked detailed questions about planning and other issues Bayford was at pains to explain that he knew nothing about anything whatsoever, indeed he seemed to cherish his all-encompassing ignorance as a kind of beacon of democracy. He was clear that the process will lead to a democratic outcome that would definitely make lots of people unhappy. Reading between the lines it seems that the public consultation will be asking questions along the lines of “do you think the airport is good for Thanet’s economy?” as if the answer to this could be arrived at by asking 1,000 people in the street what they reckon and which in any case has nothing to do with the question of night flights. A bit like forecasting the weather by asking 1,000 people on the street what they reckon it will be like tomorrow – their opinion, unless by chance you happen to pick 1,000 meteorologists, is entirely irrelevant to the actual facts.
During public questions the anti night flight crowd made well-informed criticisms of both night flying and the consultation process described by Bayford, including an alarming report of a study from the US linking airports and childhood leukemia. Pro night flight buffoons endlessly intoned their cry of “Jobs! Jobs!” but failed to quote any evidence whatsoever. Combining stupidity, malice and obsequiousness, Ramsgate’s leading fuckwit Gerry O’Donnell praised the airport for all the miracles it had wrought in Thanet and begged them to introduce night flights as soon as possible. Presumably he will equally welcome the childhood leukemia, the flight of tourists from Ramsgate (how will that affect business at his wretched ice cream kiosk?) and all the other dismal consequences.
Bayford explained that while it was true that the people of Ramsgate would have to give up their sleep, they should consider it a worthwhile sacrifice because the enormous number of jobs that would follow would mean that people who currently couldn’t sleep because they were unemployed would at last be able to get a good night’s rest. Yes, he really said that. For the record the unemployed in Thanet number around 5,500 (and for this argument we should exclude those who live under the flight path, not to mention those who happen to get a perfectly good night’s sleep despite being unemployed). Night flights will directly affect around 30,000 people. The most extravagant claims made by the airport are that around 3,000 jobs will be created.
Charles Buchanan and his goonish supporters continued to conflate night flights with expansion of the airport, his favourite tactic of late. He amused parts of the audience by claiming that he would be boosting Thanet’s tourist trade by flying in tourists. It also transpired that he will probably lose the Belfast route leaving Edinburgh as the only scheduled service, currently running at about 50% capacity.
After the dreary mumblings of the bumbling halfwits representing the pro night flight lobby had dried up resolute anti night flight battler Sue Kennedy pulled the rug out from under their feet by dragging the discussion away from airport expansion and back to night flights, pointing out that that was the only issue on the table and that the various reports and consultations should deal with that subject and that subject alone. If that comes to pass Ratty will eat his tiny hat – it looks like the precise opposite is the plan for Charles Buchanan and his faithful lackey Bob Bayford. Can he fix it? He’ll certainly do his best.