Only yesterday did the emergency Cobra committee meet under Boris Johnson’s chairmanship, a delayed and sluggish reaction to a catastrophe that has been ongoing since last week.
The Prime Minister’s refusal to recognise the flooding as the national emergency it certainly is until now suggests a disgraceful degree of complacency. Given the mass evacuations of residents and the extent of the damage, this raises the question of what disaster it takes for Mr Johnson to decide immediate action with the full resources of Government is necessary.
Help should have been made available within 24 hours, whether in the form of support for the local authorities from the Army, or a pledge to provide additional funds to clear up and get communities back on their feet. The slow response indicates that the Conservatives learned nothing from the appalling floods Yorkshire suffered in 2015, when there was a similar lack of prompt action.
Inevitably in the midst of an election, the crisis has become politicised and Labour’s pledge to spend £5.6bn on improving defences places pressure on the Government to display the same commitment to protecting northern areas.
It is also becoming clear that the Government needs to go further than just aiding the recovery operation. One of the cruellest aspects of the crisis is homeowners are discovering to their horror that insurance does not cover flood damage.
This is unacceptable. The insurance industry should be pressed by Ministers to provide cover and payouts for those affected. Wriggling out of settling claims is morally bankrupt, and must be brought to an end.