This morning, Young Dave will not be a totally happy chappie. Nor, one suspects, will he have been backward in coming forward to issue an Olympic sized bollocking to whoever thought it would be a jolly good wheeze to mosey over to Kent on a tour of villages worst affected by the recent severe weather. Because that visit ended up making Cameron look weak and ineffective.
For some, these visits are risk-free: had the Prince of Wales been visiting, he could have deployed a suitably furrowed brow, listened intently to residents, those from the emergency services, and others working to clear floodwater and restore power, told how terribly ghastly the weather had been, assured all present that something would be done, and piled off back to Kensington Palace, happy at a job well done.
But then, he isn’t in Government, and nor are opposition politicians, who can also make hay at the Coalition’s expense with flying visits and sympathetic ears. It is very different for Cameron. There is no higher elective office. The buck cannot be passed any higher. The public assume, rightly or otherwise, that he is the one person who can pull the levers and make things happen.
So, when the PM arrived in the Kent village of Yalding with the broadcasters in tow, he should have known what would happen. And it did happen: one resident told him “We were literally abandoned. We had no rescuers, no nothing for the whole day ... we’ve had no support. We’ve had no electricity and we’ve still got no electricity ... the council – we’ve been trying to contact them since Monday, and nothing”.
It will not have helped the Cameron mood that the council concerned is controlled by his party. Another resident concluded “My frustration is that until Cameron came we had been left abandoned ... When we knew he was coming this morning the police showed up, the council turned up but until then the only people helping us were volunteers. It was just a publicity stunt”. Oh dear.
Cameron’s protestation that resources were being put into flood defences was utterly false: soon after the Coalition came to power in 2010, that budget was cut by £170 million as the department concerned looked to deliver cuts of 29%. Many schemes did not go ahead. Maintenance of existing defences was cut back. The Guardian reported that scores of schemes had not been progressed as a result.
All of this information was bound to be sought out as soon as Cameron opened his mouth. Thus another good reason for him not to have made that visit: there are plenty of more junior ministers who could have done the job, and taken the flak without attracting so much media attention. Whoever thought it was a good idea to expose Young Dave to all of that will be in the doghouse today.
But good of them to show where this Government’s priorities lie. Well done that man!