Flooding: whatever happened to 'keep calm and carry on'?

David Cameron visiting a storm-damaged home in Cornwall
David Cameron visiting a storm-damaged home in Cornwall
Adam Bienkov By

Your kitchen is flooded, the River Thames is lapping on your patio doors and your most prized earthly possessions are currently bobbing along the garden path.

But never fear, one of Britain's leading politicians will be along any minute now with a camera crew and a pair of Hunter's wellies to make everything alright.

For the past few weeks, the four party leaders have been on an apparently endless tour of Britain's soggiest corners, to the benefit of almost nobody.

Whether it's Farage in waders, Cameron in hard hats, or Miliband death-staring old women to tears, all the party leaders have been desperate to show that they deeply understand your plight.

Yesterday, Cameron announced that he had cancelled a long-planned trip to the Middle East in order to continue his disaster tour of southern England.  Despite not even being in government, Miliband was quickly put under pressure to do the same.

Before long, Britain's entire democratic legislature was locked away in their offices, terrified of doing or saying anything that might not be related to drainage, sandbags or dredging.

There is something deeply un-British about all this.

In the past, we used to pride ourselves on carrying on regardless of events. The phrase "keep calm and carry on" has become an unofficial and slightly irritating national motto.

But now the entire machine of government has been brought to a halt, under the tabloid-inspired terror of being seen not to care about people affected by the floods.

This is a nonsense. People living in flooded areas don't want photo-opportunities and cancelled trips, they want sandbags and pumps. They don't want press conferences and hard-hats, they want relief funds and insurance payouts.

In the rush to demonstrate empathy, Cameron yesterday told journalists that "money would be no object" in dealing with the floods, only for his ministers to quickly correct him that it would.

Most people are not stupid. They realise that governments can only do so much to deal with what is an almost unprecedented level of rainfall. They also realise that the work of government must go on.

Of course part of the work they could be doing is trying to come up with a workable plan to combat climate change.

At the weekend, the Met Office's chief scientist Julia Slingo said that "all the evidence suggests there is a link" between the storms and climate change.

If she's right then we could be facing many more years of flood disasters to come. This would be a huge political, financial and social problem for the UK.

Dealing with those problems would take massive political change at the top. Not least in the form of the current environment secretary who reportedly does not even believe that climate change exists.

But then dealing with those issues is a lot harder than wearing a pair of waders, so we can expect Cameron, Clegg and Miliband's water tours to keep on sailing for a few more weeks at least.


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