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Boris tries airport seduction, as BBC zips him off to St Helena

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Close up of Boris
The mane is blonde: Boris should follow St Helena’s lead, says the BBC’s man. Picture: Watchlooksee/fotopedia

Andrew Gurr may have missed a trick when he was fighting to revive St Helena’s airport project, after it was stalled during his governorship of the island.

Apparently, the thing to do is to hug the British prime minister, nuzzle up close, and whisper the word “airport”. A husky voice might help.

This has emerged after London’s bid for a new airport was “paused” until after the next general election – a situation that may seem familiar on St Helena.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is even less happy about it than he was when he got stuck on a zipwire during the Olympics, judging by a quote in The Guardian.

“The government needs to stop pussyfooting around,” he says, eschewing the more diplomatic approach taken by the St Helena lobby. “The attempt to try and long-grass it for three years, into the other side of the election, is just not realistic. Totally mad and it won’t work.”

A picture in the paper shows him being hugged by Mr Cameron during the recent sporting euphoria, with the caption: “Johnson revealed that when Cameron grabbed him in a hug during an Olympics event, he whispered ‘airport’ into the prime minister’s ear.”

Andrew Gurr himself is more cautious about comparisons. That’s obviously not because he’d have had to hug Gordon Brown, who was prime minister at the time.

“My view is that major capital investment takes an enormous about of political courage in a democracy,” he says. “It is easier for Boris to show such courage as he hasn’t got to make the ultimate decision.”

He also says: “I am not sure that it is all that helpful to see any link between London and St.Helena!”

Maybe so – but the presenter of the BBC’s flagship Today programme couldn’t resist doing so, after listening to an interview on the St Helena project with Julian Morris, the chief pilot for the island’s economic take-off plan.

The questioning by business reporter Simon Jack briskly covered all the key points – the airport might end reliance on British aid, and no, St Helena won’t become an offshore tax haven – but there was nothing new in it for island-watchers.

At the end of it, presenter Jim Naughtie said: “You see, we are building airports and infrastructure spending – it’s just in a dot in the middle of the South Atlantic.”

Simon Jack’s response: “Send Boris out to investigate.”

With St Helena’s own airport not yet built on Prosperity Plain, Boris may need a longer zipwire.

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BBC iPlayer: Today programme, 16 August 2012 (UK users only: Julian Morris’s interview is available on the Listen Again feature until Wednesday 22 August, approximately 10 minutes from the end of the programme)

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