Since the weekend, I have received a large number of comments taking me to task for my remarks on Sunday. Anne-Marie Griffin from Fight The Flights has also contacted me by email. Behind the anger were some shocking stories from people who had to live close to the airport for years. I see now that coming on top of everything they have endured, my infamous 'Taliban' comment must have seemed like the last straw.
It was a throwaway line, intended to liven up my report of Peoples' Question Time in March, but to some it looked unbelievably callous. I think I understand now, so:
I am very sorry for the hurt that my ill considered words caused to local residents, including the people who made official complaints. It was unintentional but I realise that is no excuse. I also deeply regret the time it has taken for me to grasp the reality of this situation. I was wrong and I hope they can accept my apology.
In 20 years of political experience I have never reached a view based on pique - despite my reactions on Sunday afternoon. By training I am a scientist and a lawyer, and I'm usually too dispassionate, if anything. Some comments suggested I am in the pocket of the airport, but that is not the case.
I have sought to keep my options open on this issue because I'm not sure if my constituents are winners or losers overall. There are those who work at the airport, rely on it for business, or use it to travel, and the view of economic development advisors is that it provides a boost for East London. I want to protect peoples' livelihoods particularly in a recession.
On the other hand, there are residents who are disturbed by noise and who have a right to a calm environment. So far the complaints in my postbag are few, but they have the potential to increase and I have noticed more overflying recently. It is a delicate balance to strike, with far reaching consequences.
So I have asked Anne-Marie if she would be willing to meet me to put her case and share her experiences. To ensure balance I will also be seeking a meeting with the airport management. And I would be interested in other views too - your comments are invited.