After yet more heavy rainfall, and the inevitable flooding, this time reaching into the city centres of Manchester, Leeds and York, the right-leaning London-centric press is looking for convenient scapegoats. But the right-leaning press out there in the so-called Northern Powerhouse, much of which got covered in a mixture of filthy water and mud over the weekend, has already decided who to blame - its own side.
Tory supporting regional press has had enough
While both the Sun and the Mail try and get their readers to “look over there” at the UK’s foreign aid budget, their hacks, pundits and editors have missed one fact that has been picked up by those who do not live their lives in the London-centred bubble: however bad the floods get, there is one place that never gets hit, because substantial sums of money have been spent to keep it dry, and that is the capital.
You think I jest? Even when the River Thames burst its banks and flooded large areas to the west of London, that fate did not befall the city itself. So while those in the Northcliffe House and Baby Shard bunkers try to dismiss the floods as something we can solve by telling the developing world to go and do one, the normally Tory supporting press out in the provinces is having none of it - especially in Leeds.
Flood defence spending has been cut - official
The Yorkshire Post is an unashamedly Tory supporting paper. It backed the party even in 1974, when Ted Heath was on his way out. Its editorial today should sound alarm bells for David Cameron. This is part of that editorial.
“This community spirit … will be critical in the coming days and weeks so the affected areas, large and small alike, can pick up the pieces and enable shops and businesses to reopen their doors at the first opportunity.
If only the same could be said for the Government’s response to this crisis – and previous incidents of flooding. For, while David Cameron did acknowledge the scale of a disaster now predicted to cost the national economy up to £1.5bn, his sincerity masks his administration’s abiding failure to take this issue sufficiently seriously.
London spending bias is all too obvious (thanks to Éoin Clarke)
The Prime Minister repeatedly used the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe this winter’s storms. Yet every fortnight brings ‘unprecedented’ levels of new flooding and the same pious platitudes from politicians, like Environment Secretary Liz Truss, whose rhetoric is increasingly economical with the truth.
For, while Ms Truss is right to highlight the real terms increase in the amount her department, Defra, has allocated for flood defences, she chooses to overlook the fact that many schemes are subject to partnership funding from councils and other agencies whose budgets have been decimated by spending cuts.
The disingenuous Environment Secretary was also the first Minister to sign on the dotted line when it came to the Chancellor’s spending review. A more adept politician would have fought, tooth and nail, to ensure that investment was sufficient to appease those who believe that the UK’s overseas aid budget should be used to pay for flood prevention schemes here” [my emphases].
Trying to blame developing nations ...
Stablemate the Yorkshire Evening Post has gone further, with a front page comment which does not mince words. “The fact remains … that such events as witnessed in Leeds this weekend are unthinkable in the Capital and much of the South East, where state of the art flood defences have long been in place” it tells. And there is more.
“Technology is so advanced that the kind of devastation we have suffered as a city is completely avoidable. Is it expensive? Of course, but cheaper than seeing treasured mementoes ruined by encroaching floods and a city’s entire economy put at risk. The Government has made much of the notion of a Northern Powerhouse and Leeds, with its burgeoning financial and retail sectors has been placed squarely at the heart of this drive.
But a Northern Powerhouse is nothing when it’s under water. This city must have critical inward investment to make sure it has the protection from floods on this scale ever happening again. What’s good enough for London is good enough for Leeds.
The city is an economic force to be reckoned with - the beating heart of Northern England - and we demand that Prime Minister David Cameron announces immediate action to ensure that this situation is not repeated in Leeds, or anywhere else EVER AGAIN” [my emphases].
... doesn't wash outside the London bubble
Nor will those titles’ leader writers be impressed at the news that, since 2010, the amount spent on flood defences has been cut by around 20%, as opposed to increases before then. What national newspapers cannot bring themselves to understand is that not only are there a lot of people living outside London and the South East, but also that many of them are - or perhaps were - Tory voters.
Getting out the dog whistle and playing the UKIP game - blaming it all on foreigners - is not going to go down too well in Leeds. Or York. Or Manchester. Or Lancaster. Cameron and his pals could lose a lot of support here, or find that voters don’t bother to turn out when the Tories need them. Someone has not thought that Northern Powerhouse idea through.
And one more thing is for sure: all those readers are not going to be impressed by being told to “look over there” at developing countries, when the problem is here in the UK.