You know how politics works. It’s happening in the north of England and Scotland right now. And it’s not just David Cameron who is guilty of politics. They all are. But this one starts at the door of number 10.
Since the Tories weren’t elected in 2010, but were propped up by the discredited Lib Dems, they have embarked on the biggest public spending cuts of our lifetimes. Not for reasons of “balancing the books”, as they laughably claim, but because they are driven by ideology. Even the hard left shadow chancellor recognises the need for cutting the financial deficit, so we’re all in agreement to a point, but cutting public spending has consequences.
The terrible scenes of flooding are, in part, consequences of government policy. From 2010, the government started cutting almost every aspect of public spending and that included flood defences. We know that the current levels of flooding are unprecedented but if a government decides to dramatically cut back on spending money on the causes of flooding, it does not require a rocket scientist to work out that less investment will mean worse flooding and more misery. In other words, cutting public spending usually affects someone. It will be someone else tomorrow, today it is flood victims.
We have been told by Cameron, Osborne and all their friends in the media that all public spending is bad. They refer to cutting out waste. Those of us who have been on the frontline know that this “waste” is no such thing. Waste like river defences, for example. Doing more for less. Well, you can’t. It’s spin, it’s lies. And then, when things go horribly wrong, the government has to throw money at a worsening situation. Instead of investing, the government patches holes in the infrastructure. Reacting rather than being proactive. Cameron says “money will be no object” which is the exact opposite of what he said last year. He sends in the troops and more police, praises them to the hilt and manages to forget how his government – his government – has cut their numbers and their pay and conditions because public is bad and private is good. Tomorrow, he will put on his grim face along with his pursed lips, strap on his hunter wellies and see the floods for himself. This will, his spin doctors will well know, play well in the Sun and Mail, his main audience.
And, when we have all forgotten, the cuts to infrastructure projects and day to day spending will quietly go on. Money will be an object after all. The politicians will figure, probably rightly, that we will forget.
It is quite possible that events like these will become more frequent and more devastating as the climate changes. We cannot attribute individual events to climate change, but their increasing frequency and severity fits in with the overwhelming scientific view. So what does the government do? It cuts spending on that “green crap” as Cameron called it.
Ultimately, we face a political choice. We either decide collectively, as a society, that it is right to invest in both the causes and consequences of flooding and that it may cost more money which will come from all of us. Or we decide to do nothing and leave the victims to it. Or we can continue with the halfway house we have with this government (and the ones before) to muddle along and hope for the best.
These will be political decisions because they will ultimately be made by politicians. I don’t see them as party political, though. I see them as decisions that need to be made and money that needs to be spent because we really should be in it together.