How Yorkshire bluntness over Don Valley floods sunk Boris Johnson’s claim to be a ‘man of the people’ – Tom Richmond

IT is little wonder that the Tory party is trying to shield Boris Johnson – the so-called ‘‘man of the people’’ – from voters during the general election.

Flooding victims put Boris Johnson on the spot at Stainforth Community Resource Centre on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister was totally out of his depth – no pun intended – when he met flooding victims in South Yorkshire on Wednesday following days of media and political pressure.

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Eton and Oxford was clearly no preparation for this scholar of Classic languages when confronted by gruff Yorkshire bluntness – Johnson appeared lost for words when one of the more politer residents told him: “You’ve took your time Boris, haven’t you?”

Boris Johnson met volunteers in Stainforth on Wednesday following this month's floods.

He certainly did. It shouldn’t have taken the Tory leader at least five days to respond – he should have activated Government contingency plans, and called in the troops, within five hours of the River Don bursting its banks.

But it is not just the Prime Minister who is totally out of touch with the day-to-day needs of ordinary families – and more so in the neglected North.

Boris Johnson leaves St Cuthbert's Church. Fishlake, after meeting flooding victims.

Why weren’t Tory MPs, candidates and officials advising 10 Downing Street that these floods were a national crisis and demanded an immediate response?

I can only assume that they – just like the hopeless Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers who is clearly busy defending a very marginal seat in North London – are so fixated by Brexit that they only care about their own constituencies.

And what about Johnson’s equally culpable advisors? Believe it or not, they told the regional media that the PM would not be doing any interviews with local journalists – there were also suggestions that he did not intend to meet local residents until he received his first public haranguing – before the Tory leader had to relent to save himself.

Proof about the extent to which general elections are stage-managed, this episode has revealed another uncaring side to Johnson’s character, and his party’s apparent ambivalence towards the North, which will not be easily forgiven or forgotten.

It is why Johnson should now accept Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis’s call for round table talks to take place between all relevant agencies within the next fortnight to look at how best to get flooding victims back on their feet, and better protect all Don Valley communities in the future. Furthermore, the PM should agree to chair this summit – and in Doncaster. He may not receive the warmest of welcomes, but such leadership and commitment will demonstrate his willingness, or otherwise, to use his powers as Prime Minister to get things done on behalf of the most vulnerable people. Over to you, Boris Johnson.

FOR years, Brexit has been predominantly considered from an entirely domestic standpoint. It has not always been viewed from the European Union’s perspective.

Yet this puts more credence on the views of Martin Selmayr, the then chief of staff to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, in Anthony Seldon’s book May At 10 exploring the inner workings (and failings) of Theresa May’s government.

Later to become Secretary-General to the Commission, he recalled meeting Jeremy Corbyn on one occasion and asking him if he had May’s telephone number. The answer was in the negative – despite Brexit coming to define both leaders.

“I would have expected that the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition and the Prime Minister might speak at least two or three times a week on the phone and have a longstanding communication line to solve this matter, and this was not the case,” said Selmayr. “He (Corbyn) was even surprised that I even asked this question.”

I’m not. It shows the extent to which cordial political relations have deteriorated since the time when John Major, and his then Labour counterpart John Smith, would meet privately to discuss affairs of state in confidence over a fortifying glass of whisky. Sadly, such relations are likely to deteriorate, still further, until the time comes when Britain has a set of leaders who have the maturity to build political, and personal, dialogues with each other.

LIKE you, I’ll be interested in the reaction of Chancellor Sajid Javid to the claim, made in the Seldon tome, that he favoured trying to “criminalise” rough sleeping and was called a “moron” by Theresa May’s then aide Fiona Hill. Your response Mr Javid?

ANOTHER vignette is the source of Cabinet leaks – and how Liz Truss, the current International Trade Secretary, was the chief suspect. “You could tell when she was responsible for a leak because she’d always be painted in a favourable light,” said one Minister. Ouch.

ANTHONY Seldon’s book also reveals 
how Philip Hammond, the ex-
Chancellor, vetoed plans for subsidised bus travel in support of those on low incomes. Why? It sounds like the type of policy that Northern Powerhouse policy chiefs should be pushing to pioneer in this region in order to boost social mobility.

PREDICTABLY, the right-wing press tore into Jeremy Corbyn over his absence at last Saturday’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. What they did not report, however, is that he had been delayed because he had been meeting flooding victims here. I’m happy to put the record straight.

GIVEN that broadcasters demand neutral backgrounds during political interviews, I’m surprised that ‘Vote Labour’ posters were so prominent behind BBC economics editor Faisal Islam’s back when he interviewed Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Cock-up or conspiracy?