In a nation which is being constantly told that our nations credit card is maxed out by people who themselves agreed to spend Billions on bank bailouts and have since committed large sums to all sorts of vanity projects such as HS2 and replacing Trident it is perhaps no surprise to discover that one more elected idiot has wasted £285M on an airport that will probably never see a commercial plane land on it. The airport is on an Island which was once used as a place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte. St Helena is an Island in the South Atlantic that is 10.5 miles long by 6.5miles wide and an Airport would make it much more accessible to visitors and residents. However for nearly 200 years it has been known that St Helena has been impacted by a weather affect known as wind shear which is defined as a variation in wind velocity occurring along a direction at right angles to the wind’s direction and tending to exert a turning force. This means that the prospect of landing a plane on the island with any degree of certainty is very low. However despite this Alan Duncan MP who is the Minister responsible for spending money on the airport that was finished in May said the project had gone brilliantly. Since then the Department for International Development (DfID) has established an independent panel which has been tasked with finding a solution to challenges presented by wind shear. Those of us who don’t see £285M as spare change might have thought it was sensible to do this before the Airport was built. However clearly Alan Duncan sees this as a modest sum. It is clear that the people on St Helena don’t see this as a joke despite the fact since May an average of 3 planes a month have landed on the Island including two large aircraft that have successfully operated trial flights into the Airport, landing from both directions. Further trials with another large aircraft are expected shortly. To his credit Duncan has told the Islanders “we will deliver on what we promised for the Island and we will identify failures to ensure they are held to account, redressed and not repeated.” Quite what he means by repeating this catastrophe is hard to imagine, that our Government which is showing its inability to negotiate out of the EU has admitted its failure to folk on the Island is a good thing, even if they are not doing so to those of us who paid for the white elephant.
When it came to UK papers Duncan boasted that he had been instrumental in the “amazing” and “brilliant” plan and that he thought the project had gone “absolutely brilliantly”. He explained “I said, ‘Never before has this department spent this money on an infrastructure project, nor has any infrastructure project been handled, you know, at such a distance. I therefore require someone who can advise me on what constitutes a proper, fair and, as far as possible, risk-free building contract so we can avoid all the overruns. Someone who can oversee it, to make sure that it has been implemented as per the contract’. And as far as I know, that has gone absolutely brilliantly and I think a lot of that is down to the absolutely rigorous monitoring. “I think that has been a success. It has been an amazing project.”
We need a Parliament that is willing to hold the Government to account for failures such as these. Otherwise the whole Westminster edifice is destined to look like the Airport on St Helena. All of the parts in the right place, but not a single capable outcome to serve the nation that will one day question why the annual £2Bn cost of Parliament is being spent from our taxes and the outcome is far short of that value.