Notes From the Margins…

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

  • February 13, 2014
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As the country increasingly resembles the set of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, our politicians have been keen to get out there to show how much they care and ‘raise morale.’

There was Ed Miliband out in deepest Berkshire looking earnestly clueless, in what appears to be the first pair of wellies he has bought for some time, and not always getting the desired photo opportunity:

  Ed Miliband

Then there was the former fascist Nigel Farage in waders, looking more like a trout than a fisherman, informing the residents of flooded Burrowbridge in Somerset that their situation had nothing to do with climate change,that it was ‘just the weather’ and possibly had something to do with the fact that we might be ‘following EU laws.’

Thanks for that contribution Nigel.     Most helpful.     Well at least we should be grateful than it wasn’t the gays wot caused it.       And there was Lord Snooty, splashing about in the water and manfully pointing his hand at God knows what:


His Lordship is taking all this very seriously.   We know this because he has been sitting at Cobra meetings, and called off the   trip he was about to make to help bring peace to the Middle East in order to devote his efforts to the drowning shires, or at least to be seen to do so.

At a press conference explaining that decision Cameron promised that ‘Money is no object in this relief effort, whatever money was needed for it will be spent.’   His Lordship rejected calls from the Tory right and their supporters in the press to divert money from Britain’s foreign aid budget towards flood victims, saying:

We don’t have to make that choice. We are a wealthy country with a growing economcy, with public finances that are increasingly coming under control.     We will spend the correct money here at home and we will do that without interfering with our aid budget.’

Noble thoughts, you might think.   But what’s this? Yesterday Cameron not only refused to commit any more money to flood defenses, but would not even promise to prevent   500 impending job losses in flood risk management at the Environment Agency – another consequence of the ‘public finances that are increasingly coming under control.’

Some money was offered to individual homeowners and farmers, but it still falls a long way short of the £500 million shortfall in flood defenses identified by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on greenhouse emissions and climate change adaptation.

The CCC notes a ‘significant fall’ in flood defense spending since 2010/11, when the Environment Agency’s flood defense budget was reduced by   £30 million, that overall reductions in the Agency’s budget fell from £659 million to £521 million in a six-month period, and that spending plans for the coming years will be ‘ than half a billion pounds below the amount EA estimated they need to avoid risk increasing in the long-term.’

To put these figures in perspective.   The UK government is currently planning to deploy a new fleet of 48 F-35 fighter planes   to replace the Harrier Jump Jet.   Built by Lockheed Martin, the ‘world’s most futuristic fighter jet’,   is part of a US-led global project to build 3,000 F-35s that will eventually cost £600 billion, according to Pentagon estimates, including   £154 million for each plane, and £300,000 for each helmet.

The first 14 planes alone are set to cost   £2.5 billion.       And all this according to Former Royal Navy chief Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, who now works – who would have thought it? – for Lockheed Martin, in order to maintain ‘Britain’s status as a serious international player.’

So think about that, Tory voters in the West Country and the Thames Valley.   Think about the government that prefers to fork out incomprehensible sums of money on a fleet of fighter planes to prove that Britain is still ‘ a serious international player’ while your fields and homes continue to drown year after year.

Think about that when you next see Defence secretary Philip Hammond coming to raise morale in your community:


And when Transport secretary Patrick McCloughlin says that there is no ‘blank cheque’ for future flood protection,   think about the HS2 London-to-Birmingham rail link network, whose projected overall cost, including extensions to Leeds and Manchester, currently stands at £42 billion – and all this so that businessmen can eventually arrive in Birmingham 32 minutes earlier than they do already.

For these are the priorities of   the government that Cameron once promised would be the ‘greenest government ever.‘   So think about the fraud who once rode about on a bicycle to show how environmentally-friendly he and his future government would be, yet appointed the hapless Owen Paterson to be his environment secretary.

This is a man who does not believe that climate change exists, and whose department has cut spending on ‘climate change initiatives‘ by 41 percent over the coming financial year; a man who responded to last year’s IPCC report by observing   that global warming ‘has its advantages’; who believes that badgers move goalposts to avoid being gassed or shot, and that bulldozing ancient woodlands to build new houses can be ‘offset’ by getting developers to plant new trees.

Last October the Independent revealed that Paterson has received just two briefings from from the government’s chief scientific advisor on climate change since taking office. So Somerset residents are undoubtedly correct to call him a coward who has inflicted ‘Chinese torture’ on their communities, when he went to the West country – without his wellies:

And if these householders believe that they have been abandoned, they should also consider that there may be a broader reason for this. Major General Saunders is undoubtedly correct in describing the floods as an ‘unparalleled   natural crisis‘ , but scientists and environmentalists have been warning for decades about the impact of climate change and the prospect   extreme weather events.

Instead of taking long term preemptive action to mitigate these effects, a culture of disbelief has been deliberately cultivated, largely by the right, that the weather we have been seeing has nothing to do with climate change or global warming, regardless of continued reports from some of the world’s leading scientists.

Such ‘skepticism’ is summed up by the dreary Tory peer Nigel Lawson,   who has just condemned the Met Office scientist Julia Slingo for having the temerity to suggest that any of this has anything to do with climate change – a notion that Lawson considers to be ‘absurd’ and insists that ‘there is no evidence to support it.’

Well of course.   No evidence at all.   Never mind the International Panel on Climate Change – what do those silly scientists know?     Aren’t they just part of a leftwing conspiracy?

Pay no attention to the polar vortex in the United States, or the   drought in California that now means that 17 towns will be out of water, or the fact that   the UK is being whacked day after day by the worst floods since records began – a process that has been going on for some years now.

Who are you going to believe – Owen Paterson and Nigel Lawson or your lying eyes?   And next time you read the Daily Mail, which has been instrumental in trying to pressure the government into cutting foreign aid to help flood victims – is there anything this rag won’t use as an opportunity for foreigner-bashing? –   remember that this is a newspaper that has published story after story saying that there is no such thing as ‘anthropogenic’ global warming, that the Arctic is not really melting, and that it’s all just a ‘hoax’.

And consider that this may happen again and again, and that we need to take collective and serious action to protect ourselves from its consequences as best we can, both locally, nationally and internationally.

So please let’s not let ourselves be fooled into thinking that it’s all the fault of the scrounging Third World or the EU, and beware of politicians wearing wellies in search of photo-opportunities, because these are not the people who are going to help us deal with the mess we’re in.

1 Comment

  1. Nigel Baldwin

    15th Feb 2014 - 7:20 pm

    “…£154 million for each (F35)plane…” That’s grotesque. By that reckoning, the cost of one plane for each of the two white elephant aircraft carriers the gov’t is foisting on us would pay to rebuild the line from Exeter through Okehampton and Tavistock to Plymouth – avoiding the coast. It’s all too clear that we haven’t got a resource so much as a priority problem in this country, because to those in power, Prestige is all.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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