They complained it could show a weakness in the anti-expansion coalition, but in the end every councillor at the full council meeting on Tuesday July 3 voted to approve the motion attacking the government.
Moved by Liberal Democrat leader of the council Gareth Roberts, the motion condemned the decision to recommend expansion in the National Policy Statement, and welcomed the Mayor of London and Hammersmith and Fulham Council joining the fight against the third runway .
Cllr Roberts said: “There are times when we need to stand up and point where the blame lies. This was the decision of a Conservative government; they did not have to take this decision, yet they did.
“It gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to bring a motion to this council that specifically criticises a political party for doing something which we all disagree with. We have always enjoyed cross-party unanimity on this issue of opposition to Heathrow.”
The motion also called the decision a “betrayal” of residents who believed former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron when he came to the borough and said: “No ifs, no buts, no third runway.”
Cllr Roberts said: “We have never before brought a motion which directly criticises the government of the day.
“However, given the fact that they have reneged on such a very basic promise to the people of Richmond given by their then-leader in this borough, I feel that we have absolutely no option other than to send a very clear message to Number 10 that we disagree entirely with them.”
A bare-bones original motion to simply “reaffirm the council’s opposition to expansion” was originally tabled, but the amendment to single out the Conservative Party was made at about 1pm on the day, according to Cllr Roberts.
Local Conservative leader Cllr Paul Hodgins tried to amend the motion to its simple original form, taking out mention of any party.
He said: “Whatever way you look at it, it is the wrong decision. We need to stay unified, and that is what our residents expect.
“I actually don’t disagree with any of the statements in the revised motion; the fact is David Cameron did come to this borough and he did say ‘no ifs no buts’, and we’ve called him out on that.
“If the point of this is to point fingers, it’s going to make it very messy. We’re going to lose the unanimity that our residence expect.”
The Conservatives mentioned figures like Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith who voted against Heathrow expansion in parliament, and to the 119 Labour MPs who voted with the government.
Deputy opposition leader Cllr Pamela Fleming said she was “disappointed” that Cllr Roberts had “decided to play politics” with the motion.
She said: “By politicising this you also send a message to Heathrow itself that tells people that there’s a split in the alliance, and I don’t think that’s the message we want to give.
“The message that our residents want is that we are united in opposing Heathrow.”
But after the amendment was voted down, each Conservative councillor joined the Lib Dems and Greens in unanimously approving the motion condemning the government and reaffirming opposition to the third runway.