Long time, no see …
Then, the delightful Isabel Hardman published her thoughts on the political backwash from the horrendous floods across northern England. A very fair appraisal it was, too. Since comments on Speccie pieces are “open house”, this provoked the usual spate of ignorance. Isabel had disappointed her audience by not being adulatory about the Tory cover-ups and David Cameron’s crassness at #PMQs.
This was compounded by Lloyd Evans doing the #PMQs commentary, and misdirecting his spleen:
A wet performance from Jeremy Corbyn
Corybn gave his wettest ever performance at PMQs. The party leaders had different theories about the authorship of the floods. Corbyn blamed Cameron. Cameron blamed the weather. Rainfall, he explained, had wept from the heavens in such unheralded quantities that a record-breaking dip-stick had to be lowered into the bucket to assess its full volume. Corbyn wouldn’t have this. He said government scrimping was at fault.
He personified the issue with his usual set of hand-picked hankie-drenchers. He’d met a nice pair from Leeds, he said, called Chris and Victoria, whose holiday had been ruined by tides of sewage inundating their pressies. This prompted mystifying giggles from Tory backbenchers. Geography teacher Corbyn glared over his specs with his wintriest look. ‘It wasn’t very funny for them,’ he scolded, whiskers a-quiver. ‘This young couple lost many of their possessions: photos, children, toys.’ Yes, he said that. They lost their children.
Let’s compare that with the Hansard report:
Jeremy Corbyn: The Prime Minister has not answered on Leeds, he has not answered on Cumbria, and he has not answered on the warning from Professor Mellors.
Like the Prime Minister, last week I met people in York who had been affected by flooding. I met a young couple, Chris and Victoria, whose home had been flooded over Christmas—[Interruption.] It was not very funny for them. This young couple lost many of their possessions, including photos and children’s toys and school work, and they have the foul stench of floodwater in their home, as have many families all over this country. They are asking all of us wholly legitimate questions. Why was the insufficient pump capacity at the Foss barrier—which, again, we were alerted to in 2013 by a Government report—not dealt with or the pumps upgraded? That meant that people in York were flooded and their possessions and homes severely damaged. Those people want answers from all of us, and in particular from the Prime Minister.
Proof positive, were we to need it, that Lloyd Evans is one of:
- what we Norfolk-types call “luggy” (in Standard English: auricularly deficient); or
- capable of gross misrepresentation.
Neither is a qualification for good, respectable journalism.
Obviously a Redfellow retort was required, as thus:
Somewhat damp from Lloyd Evans, too.
“He’d met a nice pair from Leeds, he said, called Chris and Victoria, whose holiday had been ruined by tides of sewage inundating their pressies.”
Not quite. The town was York. No holiday mentioned. Corbyn did check: “personal possessions — photos, children’s toys, school-work, and they’ve got the foul stench of flood water in their homes, as many families have all over this country”… [Check it out on iPlayer @ 12:09]
Similarly, it was noticed that Cameron arrived in his SpAd-assisted Asda wellies, pointed his fingers at a few things, and promised large sums of money (in York’s case, subsequently much reduced). Corbyn actually toted the odd sand-bag: not much, but a physical — not rhetorical — gesture.
But York and Leeds voted Labour. So it’s OK to mock them and their inhabitants.
North of Potters Bar, what Corbyn said would be heard, loud and clear. Less so, perhaps, in Islington.
Which provoked the usual response from those towering Speccie intellects, mainly by chucking Lynton Crosby’s dead cats on the table, mate. At the moment, all deceased felines are sponsored by the Tory rendering of the Shadow Cabinet. So, there was need for a further Redfellow response:
Do explain how membership, or not, of the shadow cabinet has any bearing on the venality, dissimulation and incompetence of DEFRA, its agencies, the Tory government and Mr Cameron’s self-contradiction and ignorance shown during this year’s floods.
They didn’t brace ourselves to their duties, and so bear themselves that, if the bleak expanses north-of-Watford last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This wasn’t their finest hour.”
The floods, by the way, are still with us. Just not London-hidebound headline news any more (which is in large part because the table has been serially decorated with dead cats and failed shadow ministers serially thrown there by the Westminster bubble/Tory Press).
As for the amazingly-evanescent Ms Truss … words fail.
Hmm … not one of the old boy’s best; but the gybe about Liz Truss is valid.
Last time round, during the Somerset Levels floods of 2014 (when all of a few dozen houses were inundated), Owen Paterson was Secretary of State, and very prominent. He ran the COBRA meetings. His were the public pronouncements. He was seen to be out, about and active. Now the whole focus is on Cameron as the wonder-worker, and Ms Truss is kept out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
But Ms Truss is heavily engaged in plotting the next round of floods, as George Mombiot makes clear:
At the Oxford farming conference on Wednesday, as if nothing had happened in the preceding month, Truss revealed that she is intends to go ahead with her long-standing plan to allow farmers to dredge and clear the water courses passing through their land, without oversight, regulation, or consideration of the impacts downstream, in order to prevent their fields from flooding.
She also intends “to give internal drainage boards and other groups more power to maintain local watercourses”. The autonomy of internal drainage boards has long been recognised as part of the problem: dominated by local landowners, they tend to be narrowly focused on getting water off farmland as quickly as possible. They are responsible for much of the embankment, canalisation and dredging that speeds rivers into people’s homes.
This would seem to be an insanity approved by climate-change-denier, (Viscount) Matt Ridley:
The E[nvironment] A[gency] is right about one thing: we need to let rivers spread where they don’t flood houses, and that means getting farmers in the lowlands to pull down flood banks and let the water on to their land. Put flood banks round housing estates, not along rivers. Above all devolve the decision down to local level: revive the local internal drainage boards that used to take these decisions.
Which may be half-true. Except the problem isn’t at “lowlands” level: it’s up there in the hills, where the rain falls, and the landowners and grouse moor-owners have vested interests in making sure the run-off and drenching of us lesser, lower beings happens as fast as can be arranged. Monbiot 1, Ridley o.
And, but naturally, Malcolm had already signed up for the Monbiot position, as in this exchange:
And here is that Private Eye item: