Populism, Localism and Environmental Politics: the Logic and Rhetoric of the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign

Steven Griggs, D Howarth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Citations (Scopus)


Proposed plans to build or expand large infrastructure projects such as airports, motorways or housing developments are often sites of intense political contestation and conflict management. This article explores the intersection between environmental planning processes and political practices by analysing the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) campaign to curtail the further development of Stansted Airport in the south-east of England. Highlighting a paradox of political engagement, the article builds upon recent poststructuralist theory to develop a novel grammar of concepts and logics with which to explore the dynamics of political campaigning. This grammar develops Ernesto Laclau's recent approach to populism by elaborating a spectrum of political forms of engagement, along which concrete manifestations can be located. We then characterize the logic of the SSE campaign surrounding New Labour's consultation exercise for the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, before problematizing strategies and tactics in the light of the available options. We conclude by sketching out the possibility of a dialectical connection between localism and populism, in which particular demands can be inscribed into a more universal rhetoric and strategy for change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-144
Number of pages22
JournalPlanning Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008


  • populism
  • airports
  • localism
  • large infrastructure projects
  • political engagement
  • environmental planning


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