Nobody loves a grandiose infrastructure project more than me. But, I'm also a realist, and it is quite clear that building a brand new airport on partially reclaimed land in the Thames estuary over 40 miles from London is a non-starter. It would be too costly, the business case is very weak and would result in a fundamental shift in London's economic geography. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the new airport would need British Airways to be an anchor tenant, and that has been ruled out by the airline.
So why do we need a Government consultation into such a floored project? It reminds me of when New Labour once proposed building a new mega-hub near Rugby to effectively replace Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Birmingham airports. This was never a serious idea, but it meant they could give the green light to other "less damaging" expansion plans instead as an alternative.
There is no question that London needs extra flights capacity, but the cheapest and quickest fixes – new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow – are major political hot potatoes for the Conservative led Government and their London Mayor. The constituencies around Heathrow are a minefield of marginals and Gatwick's environs are solid Tory territory. The solution? Present the voters with the simple choice of "create thousands more jobs here" or "decimate your local economy as everything moves to the far east (of London)".
Extra runway capacity obviously doesn't have the same cache as a headline grabbing prestige project, but I'd be voting for that over Boris's fantasy island.