I seem to remember having said I worried about this government’s response to a major crisis like the floods of 2007. The current situation shows all the basic flaws in the government. Our key source for this post is the Daily Hell.
First up, we have the lack of administrative grip. This lot are routinely taken by surprise by all kinds of things, and struggle to recover from the surprise. They don’t do detail. This has been going on since Christmas.
Secondly, they are heavily lightweight. After the 2007 experience, was it really wise to give DECC the biggest percentage cut out of the departments, when so many Tories (and other people) very obviously depend on the Environment Agency’s management of engineered landscapes? Was anybody thinking? Actual experts seem to feel nothing but contempt for this bunch of amateurs.
Quote of the day on Radio 4 just now. Prof of drainage at Sheffield uni "Eric Pickles is unbelievably stupid. He'd be more use as a sandbag"
— Kenny Davidson (@Kilduskland) February 10, 2014
Third, they know they lack chops and therefore they turn to what they know, which is PR. They would spin anything. This leads them to do crazy things. The prime minister announces that he will chair the COBRA meetings, and then that he will fly to the Soggy Zone to be seen in his wellies. Naturally, if he’s in Somerset he can’t also be in Whitehall, so he has to go there and then rush off somewhere (probably a military installation) to find a secure teleconference bridge to dial into the COBRA.
As a result, we end up with the genuinely hilarious idea that the COBRA chair will rotate among the ministers. Let’s all hope and pray Iain Duncan Smith is last in the rotation.
And I mean the wellies thing.
Mr Paterson in particular is accused of botching the response, leaving his wellington boots in his car while visiting Somerset, blaming Dutch settlers under Charles I for draining the Levels and refusing to support claims the storms are linked to climate change.
And I mean the COBRA thing.
However, he [the No.10 spokesman] was unable to say who was now leading the response to the flooding on behalf of the government. Asked who was in charge, the spokesman said it was a cross-party effort to tackle the storms, with different cabinet ministers likely to chair each meeting of the Cobra disaster committee.
Disaster committee is putting it mildly.
Fourth, they don’t know how to shut up. Having fucked up, they insist on bombarding us with announcements, tours, photo calls, etc. When you’re in the doghouse, it’s best to shut your mouth. The Daily Hell piece was released this morning, but since then it’s gained a ton of photos of Cameron standing meaningfully near Royal Engineer plant doing jazz hands. (No. Look.) He also visits First Great Western’s Plymouth Laira depot – earlier in the day, I heard that FGW is seriously looking into how to evacuate trains stuck there by the floods, perhaps by sea.
@yorksranter Overheard guard saying Gt Western have got so much rolling stock cut off by flooding, considering moving it by sea or road.
— Oliver Rivers (@maxrothbarth) February 10, 2014
Fifth, they are obsessively partisan. Suddenly, there is a Tory way of water management, which is “dredging”, and a Labour way which is…something else. Never mind that nobody involved could comment intelligently on this, or that the supposed pause in dredging was more than a decade ago. I can’t imagine anyone who has less to say about this than Nick Clegg. It’s not so much blind men describing colour, as blind men fighting over the definition of yellow because their PR advisors said so. You have no idea. Shut up!
Sixth, their mean streak shows. As soon as it finally became too bad to deny any more, it all came out. Pickles kicks down, like the undignified bully he is, on the EA workers wading thigh deep in the shit. Unknown colleague tells us that Owen Paterson is a buffoon:
One Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘He just isn’t very bright. Most of the people around the Cabinet table are bright, even if I disagree with them, but not Owen. He isn’t climate sceptic, he’s climate stupid.’
The prime minister then turns around and stabs Pickles to defend Paterson. The shark ethic prevails, in the shallow murky waters. Omnishambles rules.