Boris Johnson’s absence from flood-hit areas defended by No 10

Downing Street said it was important not to distract from efforts to help those hit by flooding.

Vehicles caught in floodwater in Frankwell Car Park, Shrewsbury
Vehicles caught in floodwater in Frankwell Car Park, Shrewsbury

Boris Johnson’s continued absence from flooded areas has been defended by Downing Street, with officials insisting it was important not to “distract” from the ongoing effort to deal with the problem.

The Prime Minister had been receiving “regular updates” about the situation as he spent time at the grace-and-favour Chevening mansion last week.

Number 10 said Environment Secretary George Eustice was “rightly” leading the Government’s response to the flooding which has hit parts of the UK.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited Rhydyfelin, South Wales, last week and challenged the Prime Minister to visit flood-hit communities.

Mr Johnson’s decision to stay away from flooded towns and villages is in marked contrast to his response during the general election campaign, when he carried out visits and called an emergency Cobra meeting.

Autumn weather Nov 8th 2019
Boris Johnson helped with the clean-up at an opticians in Matlock, Derbyshire, during flooding in November (Danny Lawson/PA)
Flooding in the North of England
The PM during a visit to Stainforth, Doncaster, to see the flooding (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are hugely grateful to all of those who have helped in response, from the Environment Agency engineers and the emergency services out on the ground to the military who have stepped in to assist.

“The Government has extensive plans in place to deal with these kinds of extreme weather events and we are working tirelessly to help everyone affected.

“The Environment Secretary and his department is rightly leading the Government’s response to this, ensuring teams who are busy working around the clock have the support and resources they need.

“It’s important not to distract from that ongoing effort.”

The spokesman rejected the suggestion that Mr Johnson had visited flooded areas during the election simply to win votes.

Asked whether Number 10 was concerned that it looked as though the Prime Minister simply did not care, the spokesman said: “The PM was receiving regular updates and working with ministers across Government to ensure that people received the help that they need.

“We are hugely grateful to all of those volunteers and others who have been working so hard on their response.”

Speaking in the Commons, shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard accused Mr Johnson of being “missing in action”.

He said: “Where was the Prime Minister? Why wasn’t a Cobra meeting convened? Why was there no national leadership from this Government? Why has the Welsh Government and communities in Wales not received the same extra support as those in England?

“During the general election, the Prime Minister reluctantly visited flood-hit communities to win votes. He was out with his mop pushing water around shops, but now he’s got his majority he’s nowhere to be seen. He’s missing in action.

“He was taking a break in a mansion in Kent instead of giving our nation the leadership those communities under water genuinely deserve.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he was leading on the response to the flooding, adding the National Flood Response centre was a similar mechanism to Cobra but dedicated to this specific purpose.

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