In life`s rich tapestry, there can be fewer heartaches or natural shocks as traumatic as suffering a flood and even as our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of these terrible weather events, it is vital that we indentify who is to blame for the suffering.
Honest developers, local councils, construction firms and estate agents are in the business of business and cannot be criticised for planning, approving building and then selling property on floodplains. It is always important to read the small print in any building and land transaction yet sadly some of the victims seem to have missed the sentence containing the words “flood” and “plain” and have happily signed the bottom line securing their dream home with a lovely view of the river.
Government cannot be blamed because this particular government is above blame and if anything ever goes wrong it`s obviously somebody else at fault. Indeed, Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson is as much a victim as the people of the Somerset Levels. As soon as the enormity of the disaster involving up to 40 houses and the resulting departmental cock-up became apparent, the poor man`s retina became detached requiring surgery and blessed respite away from cameras, microphones and impertinent questions. Retinal detachment is a serious condition and is usually caused by the aging process or, more rarely, a trauma to the skull. Symptoms include seeing “floaters” in the field of vision, sudden flashes of light, myopia and blurred or distorted vision.
This might explain Mr Paterson`s inability to see clear scientific evidence proving that culling badgers will not work, flood defence management in a flat, low lying marsh requires managing and climate change is more credible than the existence of the tooth fairy. Mr Patterson`s medical records are, of course, confidential and no government would ever sell this data to advertising agencies so it is pure speculation that his condition was caused by a blow to the head from a baseball bat at one of the 22 recent Cobra meetings that discussed flooding. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Environment Secretary and we wish him a speedy recovery and to his constituents in North Shropshire currently under three feet of water.
His absence, however, has not diverted the government from blaming everyone else. Into the breach stepped world famous hydrologist, physical geographer and award winning civil engineer Eric Pickles. Yes…that`s right…Eric Pickles. Sadly, Eric made two mistakes very early on in his involvement. The first mistake was to admit that the government had made a mistake. Being completely out of character for a Tory minister is most unusual and Eric, by admitting liability, will have residents of the Somerset Levels rushing to the courts to demand massive compensation. His second mistake was to attack and blame the agency desperately trying to protect communities from the rising water even though funding and staffing levels had been cut by the government. There is something of a pattern emerging in government policy that goes like this. Cut funding and staff in public services, tell the nation that funding and staffing has increased, wait for a failure however small, seize upon the failure and slag off the remaining staff and service and then flog off the profitable bits to Tory party donors removing the non-profitable stuff that is actually needed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric Pickles in the hope that Greenpeace will reach him in time to drag him off the beach and free him into the rising ocean.
Dropping a few votes from the Somerset Levels might not be that significant and the denial of a late, dirty and expensive train journey to Penzance on privatised railways will not bring down a government but things are now getting nasty. The rain keeps raining and the floods are moving east into the sacred Thames Valley. This is now serious as large numbers of traditionally Conservative voters will be affected and government ministers are running out of people to blame. More significantly after the removal of Eric Pickles, the government is running out of ministers to do the blaming. Philip Hammond is the latest to fail the audition for the spring cabinet re-shuffle and is spending the day being shouted at by the angry and soggy citizens of Well Off–on–Thames. With the playing fields of Eton College and the double gated mansions of Windsor under threat, money is suddenly being chucked in the direction of safe Tory seats with the proviso that every pound spent should yield at least eight votes. David Cameron`s idea of leadership and crisis management seems limited to wearing a high viz jacket and a hard hat for the benefit of cameramen and having another meeting.
After blaming the previous Labour government, the EU and the Environment Agency and after having their shrill accusations deftly dismissed by people who know what they are talking about, ministers now say that this is not the time for finger pointing and blame culture. Chairman of the Environment Agency Baron Smith of Finsbury, or former Labour minister Chris Smith as every news outlet emphasises every time he is quoted, elegantly rebuffed the ignorant, bullying arrogance of the likes of Pickles by calmly explaining actual facts and informing us that flood defence spending and the lack of it is governed by the Treasury and George Osborne. I don`t know about you, but I wouldn`t trust Osborne to run a bath.
So who is to blame for the Tory PR disaster? It`s not badgers so it must be God. As well as missing the clause about floodplains, the tearful victims of the Levels and the Thames Valley probably missed the building insurance clause regarding Acts of God. “Sorry…it`s God`s fault…you`ll get no payout from us” say the insurance companies. Cameron, after weeks of inaction, says; “Hang on…these are hardworking families who own houses and vote Conservative…money is no object.” God moves in mysterious ways and who could have imagined that a terrible flood would transform an economy almost bankrupted by reckless predecessors into a wealthy nation able to afford unlimited resources seemingly overnight. Rather than blaming God, we should thank his holy meteorology for saving the nation and washing the carpets of that rather odd UKIP councillor in Henley-on-Thames who thinks floods are caused by same sex marriages. The tiny spot of slime stuck to his living room ceiling is the remains of his brain after he discovered that Chris Smith was Britain`s first openly gay MP. I don`t know about you, but I know who I would prefer to discuss diverting overseas aid with over a nice cup of tea.
The good people of the Thames Valley now share a bond with the people of Hull, Fukushima, the Philippines and Louisiana in experiencing the horror of flooding and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Persian rugs, DVD players and four by fours of Berkshire and Surrey. Their suffering was not caused by a devastating tsunami but by a slow, inevitable rise of bilge and raw sewage generated by governmental greed, dogma and stupidity. Denying the science and the effects of climate change and pursuing short-term profit from burning carbon instead of investing in sustainable energy means that God didn`t change the weather; the humans that control humanity did.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to David Cameron. The tide has turned, the ship has hit the rock and Dave is in the creek without a paddle.