Calls for Boris Johnson to visit the flood-hit areas reached a crescendo last night as Britain braced itself for another weekend of torrential rain.
He’s being portrayed unfairly as a heartless toff, holed up at Chevening, one of the Government’s official residences, while half the country is under water.
The anger and frustration of those affected by the deluge is understandable. Lives have been lost, hundreds have been forced from their homes and businesses, and thousands more have had their possessions ruined.
In some parts, the flooding has been of biblical proportions.
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to avoid the worst of the storms can only begin to imagine the anguish of people who have been hardest hit. Our hearts go out to them.
Calls for Boris Johnson to visit the flood-hit areas reached a crescendo last night as Britain braced itself for another weekend of torrential rain
Without wanting to trivialise their plight, I was furious when an upstairs shower sprang a leak and sent water pouring through the ceiling and down the walls of our living room below.
Heaven knows how I would have reacted if the entire ground floor was under four feet of filthy river water. But that’s the grim reality facing so many of our fellow citizens. Even when the waters subside, they’re going to be cleaning up for months to come.
And all those expensive TV adverts featuring the likes of Hollywood star Harvey Keitel won’t mean their insurance claims are settled any quicker, either.
Naturally, at times like these, there’s a tendency to look for scapegoats. For the Left, it’s all down to climate change, savage Tory cuts and, probably, Brexit, too.
He’s being portrayed unfairly as a heartless toff, holed up at Chevening, one of the Government’s official residences, while half the country is under water
I’m only surprised the Greta Thunberg fan club haven’t started referring to the recent wet weather as Storm Boris, just as they accused George W. Bush of being responsible for the hurricane which devastated New Orleans a few years ago.
Global-warming sceptics blame European environmental directives, homegrown eco-mentalists who refuse to dredge rivers — in order to provide a congenial breeding ground for the Depressed River Mussel and other assorted wildlife — and the lunacy of building on flood plains to provide homes for a population swelled by unlimited immigration.
You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to work out which side of the argument I come down on. But that’s not the point.
The Government, the emergency services and heroic local residents are doing all they can to mitigate the damage and help those in distress.
Politicising the floods is pointless, although that won’t stop anyone pointing the finger. But I’m not going to join the chorus of criticism.
Lives have been lost, hundreds have been forced from their homes and businesses, and thousands more have had their possessions ruined (pictured: a woman stands in floodwater in her home in Shropshire)
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Boris has been keeping his head down lately. For someone who has a long track record of shameless self-promotion, he’s been remarkably restrained since winning the election.
By now, I would have expected the old Boris to have been filmed standing majestically on the prow of a boat floating down the River Trent, like that famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
Instead, he’s resisted the temptation and let his ministers, the fire brigade and all the other relevant authorities get on with their jobs, while making money available for flood relief.
Actually, I find his reluctance to take a starring role in this particular disaster movie refreshing, especially given the grandstanding of some of his predecessors.
Just imagine if Tony Blair was still in charge. He’d be helicoptered around the country, ostentatiously consoling flood victims with all the sincerity of an American television evangelist.
Just imagine if Tony Blair was still in charge. He’d be helicoptered around the country, ostentatiously consoling flood victims with all the sincerity of an American television evangelist
Blair was a master when it came to turning someone else’s misery into a photo-opportunity. If he’d been in No 10 today, he would no doubt have taken it upon himself to issue a tear-stained tribute to the tragic Caroline Flack: ‘She was the People’s Presenter.’
This is a man, after all, who thought it appropriate to issue a statement of condolence on the day Frank Sinatra died. Blair was always on the lookout for ‘eye-catching initiatives’ for which he could take credit.
Gordon Brown, despite being a more dour character, wasn’t much better. For a while, immediately after he took over from Blair, Gordon decided to run the country as a one-man band, trampling over his subordinates as he stampeded towards the nearest TV camera.
During a suspected outbreak of foot and mouth, he even called a snap press conference about five minutes after a sheep sneezed in Lanarkshire to announce he was taking personal charge.
Gordon Brown, despite being a more dour character, wasn’t much better. For a while, immediately after he took over from Blair, Gordon decided to run the country as a one-man band
There’s always the danger, though, that these cynical stunts can backfire. In one column, I compared Brown to Don Partridge — a real-life one-man band, who had a couple of novelty hits in the Sixties, Rosie and Blue Eyes.
A few days later I received a letter from Don Partridge himself, asking me never again to mention his name in the same sentence as Gordon Brown.
You couldn’t make it up.
Still, on balance, Boris probably should pay a state visit to a few of the worst-hit areas. Sufficient time has elapsed to deflect any accusation that he is indulging in Blair-style knee-jerk exploitation.
One man he could call on is Vic Haddock, who has been washed out of his home at Ironbridge, Shropshire.
Mr Haddock, 60, runs a canoe hire business on the Severn. He doesn’t blame Boris, but he would like to find out precisely who is responsible for the lack of effective flood protection. And he hopes the Prime Minister might be able to help.
One man he could call on is Vic Haddock, who has been washed out of his home at Ironbridge, Shropshire
He told MailOnline: ‘We live by a river. I bought this of my own choice, my own accord. I’m a staunch supporter of Boris. I’ve supported him, now come on Boris, come and support me… I’ll buy you a pint.’
Sounds like some people would appreciate a bit of moral support. Boris would certainly get a warm, if wet, welcome from Vic Haddock.
But elsewhere, he might receive a more hostile reception, especially from folk not especially well disposed towards the Conservatives.
Mrs Thatcher found that out during the 1980s.
The Great Lady wasn’t immune from rushing to the scene of every IRA bombing and train crash to console the victims. No doubt she meant well, but not everyone was pleased to see her.
Private Eye magazine even produced a ‘Thatch Card’ which readers could carry in their wallets, like blood donor cards, and hand to medical staff if they were ever admitted to hospital following, say, a nasty motorway pile-up.
It read: ‘In the event of an accident, the holder of this card wishes it to be known that he/she does NOT wish to be visited by Mrs Thatcher under any circumstances whatsoever.’
Boris doesn’t incite the same kind of vile, visceral hatred which was directed towards Thatch. He generally manages to put a smile on the faces of even those who would never vote for him.
In the past, I’ve compared him to Arnold Bennett’s character Denry Machin, in his novel The Card, whose great gift was ‘cheering us all up’.
As Vic Haddock says: ‘Come on, Boris.’ If anyone ever needed cheering up, it’s those poor souls hit by flooding. You can start by buying Vic a pint.
I’m sure he won’t mind rowing you to the pub.