Corbyn: 'Is Boris pretending to care about flood victims when there's no election'

26 February 2020, 12:27

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With devastating floods sweeping parts of the UK following three weekends of torrential rain causing rivers to burst their banks and homes to be flooded, Jeremy Corbyn hit out at the Prime Minister for not visiting flood-hit areas.

The Labour leader said when he visited flood-hit areas recently he saw the damage and destruction the flooding had caused but accused the PM of being "silent."

"He was sulking in his grace and favour mansion at Chevening, after two weeks of flooding there are now even memes being produced, not asking 'where's Wally' asking 'where's Boris' when is the government going to stop hiding?"

The Labour leader asked if the Prime Minister was "too busy" with some other business.

He joked that Mr Johnson could send his chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, "I'm sure he'd be very well received in all the flooded areas."

The Prime Minister fired back at the Labour leader saying he was "very proud" of the government's response. He told the Commons he had convened the National Floods Centre to help deal with the problem.

"Since the flooding began there has been a constant stream of ministerial activity," Mr Johnson said defending the Tory response.

He said it was "thanks to the measures that this government has put in that 200,000 households have been protected from flooding."

Mr Corbyn pointed out he wrote to the PM during the 2019 general election campaign asking him to convene COBRA for the floods, "he very reluctantly agreed with that and eventually did call a meeting."

He said the situation now is "even worse" than it was then and a meeting of the PM's top emergency committee has not been called.

"Is he just pretending to care, because he doesn't really care at all because there are no votes on the line at this moment?"

Mr Johnson defended himself, he said the Labour leader "knows perfectly well" that there has been a "stream of ministerial meetings."

The Tory leader said he had been directing the response himself and that COBRA is "a reference to Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, it is not the only room in which meetings can take place."

Mr Corbyn concluded by calling Mr Johnson a "part-time prime minister", telling MPs: "The Prime Minister was keen to pose for cameras when there's a crisis on during the election but he often goes AWOL.

"He was late to respond to the London riots as he was on holiday, he was on a private island when the Iranian general was assassinated, and last week he had his head in the sand at a mansion in Kent.

"The MP for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), another of his colleagues, said it's not good enough.

"How can the country trust a prime minister, a part-time prime minister, last night schmoozing Tory party donors at a very expensive black tie ball instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering because of the floods?"

Watch the whole exchange in the video at the top of the page, or click here to see the whole of Prime Minister's Questions.

The Labour Leader hit out at the PM during Prime Minister's Questions
The Labour Leader hit out at the PM during Prime Minister's Questions. Picture: HoC

There is no let-up in sight for flood-hit communities in Shropshire and Worcestershire after heavy rain overnight caused the River Severn to breach emergency defences.

More wet weather is forecast in some of the worst-affected areas, with parts of Wales and the North West of England predicted to see another 0.8in to 1.6in (2cm to 4cm) of rain, according to the Met Office.

Railway lines into Shrewsbury were closed due to the rising water levels close to the viaduct.

Network Rail said: "The exceptionally high-water levels in the Severn and the closure of these lives serve to highlight the extreme weather we've experienced across the network over the last few weeks.

"The current situation in Shrewsbury is very much a once-in-a-generation event."

It said engineers would be undertaking an underwater inspection of the viaduct's structure on Wednesday morning before lines can reopen.

Residents in the Worcestershire town of Bewdley were forced to evacuate after the river spilled over barriers at Beales Corner.

In the at-risk town of Ironbridge in Shropshire, the force of the river forced flood defences backwards, although they managed to hold.