Swampy's comeback leaves contractors in a bit of a dilemma. Business-wise, they can't snub government plans for a 300% expansion in airport capacity just because a few Dongas are on the march. Yet the memory of all those vitriolic "Co-stain" leaflets and directors' home addresses pinging around the internet is still fresh. At least contractors will know what to expect this time.
For those taking the BAA shilling, it is vital to recall the lessons of Twyford Down. The first is to respect the activists' right to protest, and to appreciate their public support. Berkshire residents like flying to Ibiza for £20 as much as anyone else, but they don't much fancy taking off from the end of their garden. Second, contractors will need better intelligence on the protesters, and more – but less zealous – security. The real battle with eco-warriors doesn't take place on site, but in the media. In a stand-off between Swampy and a dozen ex-army heavies, there will only be one winner – if you recall, the celebrity protester even appeared on Have I Got News For You.
Third, contractors can no longer hide behind the feeble argument that they are only doing what the politicians told them to. It may be the government's decision to sanction new runways, but don't expect ministers to parachute in when the flak starts flying. They won't defend the PFI against the unions (see news), and as for justifying the Iraq war, well, see the Hutton Inquiry.
No. Contractors will have to put the case for development themselves. Swampy won't be interested in economics, but there's a powerful point to be made about the damage to Britain's prosperity if it doesn't build airports. In squaring up to Swampy, contractors need to focus the debate on when and where – not whether. Fasten your seat belts.
Adrian Barrick, editor