Heathrow could have been renamed Winston Churchill Airport, declassified government files reveal

John Major considered renaming Heathrow ‘Winston Churchill Airport’, declassified government documents reveal

John Major considered renaming Heathrow ‘Winston Churchill Airport’, declassified government documents reveal.

The then prime minister asked his transport secretary to consider the possibility after he received a letter from a businessman friend.

Describing it as an ‘intriguing idea’, Sir John wrote back saying he would ‘look into it’, the files in the National Archives at Kew reveal. 

They show that he raised it with the then transport secretary Sir George Young, but there is no record of what became of the discussions.

The idea was brought to Sir John’s attention in a letter from property developer Harvey Spack in September 1996.

Mr Spack told him that he had read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and had been inspired by the islanders’ reverence for Sir Winston Churchill.

‘It is about a Greek island and what happens to its population during the Second World War.

The then prime minister asked his transport secretary to consider the possibility of renaming Heathrow after he received a letter from a businessman friend. Describing it as an ‘intriguing idea’, Sir John wrote back saying he would ‘look into it’, the files in the National Archives at Kew reveal

The then prime minister asked his transport secretary to consider the possibility of renaming Heathrow after he received a letter from a businessman friend. Describing it as an ‘intriguing idea’, Sir John wrote back saying he would ‘look into it’, the files in the National Archives at Kew reveal

The then prime minister asked his transport secretary to consider the possibility of renaming Heathrow after he received a letter from a businessman friend. Describing it as an ‘intriguing idea’, Sir John wrote back saying he would ‘look into it’, the files in the National Archives at Kew reveal

The idea was brought to Sir John’s attention in a letter from property developer Harvey Spack in September 1996. Above, John and wife Norma Major leaving Heathrow in 1997

The idea was brought to Sir John’s attention in a letter from property developer Harvey Spack in September 1996. Above, John and wife Norma Major leaving Heathrow in 1997

The idea was brought to Sir John’s attention in a letter from property developer Harvey Spack in September 1996. Above, John and wife Norma Major leaving Heathrow in 1997

‘It is firstly invaded by the Italians, then the Nazis and finally by Greek communists, who were possibly the worst perpetrators of all,’ he wrote. 

‘Throughout all this, the people are very brave and keep looking to the heavens to pray for salvation by “Wiston [sic] Churchill”.’ 

He adds that it would be ‘superb PR’ to rename the airport after the war leader.

‘New York has Kennedy airport, Paris has de Gaulle, and we have the stupid name of Heathrow!’ he wrote.

Mr Spack told him that he had read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and had been inspired by the islanders’ reverence for Sir Winston Churchill

Mr Spack told him that he had read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and had been inspired by the islanders’ reverence for Sir Winston Churchill

He added that it would be ‘superb PR’ to rename the airport after the war leader

He added that it would be ‘superb PR’ to rename the airport after the war leader

Mr Spack told him that he had read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and had been inspired by the islanders’ reverence for Sir Winston Churchill. He added that it would be ‘superb PR’ to rename the airport after the war leader (right)

There is a Churchill airport in Manitoba, Canada (above) which was built during the Second World War, which may explain why the idea was a non-starter

There is a Churchill airport in Manitoba, Canada (above) which was built during the Second World War, which may explain why the idea was a non-starter

There is a Churchill airport in Manitoba, Canada (above) which was built during the Second World War, which may explain why the idea was a non-starter

‘It should be renamed with the name of the greatest man of the century.’

The files show that Sir John then directed his parliamentary private secretary Alex Allan to forward the letter to the Department for Transport.

On September 16, Mr Allan wrote: ‘The Prime Minister would be grateful for your Secretary of State’s initial and personal views on the idea – both on its merits and the practicalities and also on how this might be floated if it seemed worth pursuing.’

Sir John responded to Mr Spack, on September 19, thanking him for his ‘intriguing idea’ and saying he was looking into it. 

There is a Churchill airport in Canada which was built during the Second World War, which may explain why the idea was a non-starter.

Secret plan to bring Russia in from the cold and make it an ‘associate member’ of Nato in the 1990s was dismissed as ‘farcical’ by MPs, memo reveals

Russia could have been made an ‘associate member’ of Nato to bring it back into the fold after the Cold War, declassified files reveal.

A discussion of foreign policy at Chequers – the prime minister’s countryside retreat – reveals that the prospect was considered by the Cabinet in 1995.

Defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind’s department said that ‘integrating Russia into the Western family of nations in a realistic and sensitive way’ was ‘the most difficult problem we face’.

Though it could not have full membership, and the military commitment that went with it, a possible solution was to ‘create a new category of associate member’, giving Russia the status to attend meetings. 

Russia could have been made an 'associate member' of Nato to bring it back into the fold after the Cold War, declassified files reveal. In a discussion with John Major in 1995, Defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the West 'needed to help [then president] Boris Yeltsin (dancing, above) make Russia a more normal European country'

Russia could have been made an 'associate member' of Nato to bring it back into the fold after the Cold War, declassified files reveal. In a discussion with John Major in 1995, Defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the West 'needed to help [then president] Boris Yeltsin (dancing, above) make Russia a more normal European country'

Russia could have been made an ‘associate member’ of Nato to bring it back into the fold after the Cold War, declassified files reveal. In a discussion with John Major in 1995, Defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the West ‘needed to help [then president] Boris Yeltsin (dancing, above) make Russia a more normal European country’

A discussion of foreign policy at Chequers – the prime minister's countryside retreat – reveals that the prospect was considered by the Cabinet in 1995. (Above, file image of John Major following a two-day Nato summit in Brussels)

A discussion of foreign policy at Chequers – the prime minister's countryside retreat – reveals that the prospect was considered by the Cabinet in 1995. (Above, file image of John Major following a two-day Nato summit in Brussels)

A discussion of foreign policy at Chequers – the prime minister’s countryside retreat – reveals that the prospect was considered by the Cabinet in 1995. (Above, file image of John Major following a two-day Nato summit in Brussels)

Aides agreed to keep the suggestion confidential ahead of the the Chequers summit.

Minutes from that summit described how the Chancellor, Ken Clarke, ‘was cautious about (Nato) expansion’.

It added: ‘At the extreme, some were even contemplating including Russia in Nato. That was farcical and should not be on our agenda.’

In a discussion with John Major in 1995, Mr Rifkind said the West ‘needed to help [then president] Boris Yeltsin make Russia a more normal European country’.

His remarks reveal how relations with Russia have changed since 1995, with the rise of Vladimir Putin leading to deep tensions with the West.

Minutes from the discussion said: 'He [Mr Rifkind] did not think our current policy was sufficiently imaginative.' The minutes say Mr Rifkind (right) feared that Russia would 'revert to authoritarianism' and the West would 'lose a huge and historic opportunity'

Minutes from the discussion said: 'He [Mr Rifkind] did not think our current policy was sufficiently imaginative.' The minutes say Mr Rifkind (right) feared that Russia would 'revert to authoritarianism' and the West would 'lose a huge and historic opportunity'

Minutes from the discussion said: ‘He [Mr Rifkind] did not think our current policy was sufficiently imaginative.’ The minutes say Mr Rifkind (right) feared that Russia would ‘revert to authoritarianism’ and the West would ‘lose a huge and historic opportunity’

Mr Rifkind's remarks reveal how relations with Russia have changed since 1995, with the rise of Vladimir Putin leading to deep tensions with the West

Mr Rifkind's remarks reveal how relations with Russia have changed since 1995, with the rise of Vladimir Putin leading to deep tensions with the West

Mr Rifkind’s remarks reveal how relations with Russia have changed since 1995, with the rise of Vladimir Putin leading to deep tensions with the West

Minutes from the discussion said: ‘He [Mr Rifkind] did not think our current policy was sufficiently imaginative.’

The minutes say Mr Rifkind feared that Russia would ‘revert to authoritarianism’ and the West would ‘lose a huge and historic opportunity’.

The files do not record the prime minister’s thoughts on the subject.

Nato currently has 29 member countries, although Russia is not among them. 

 

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