‘So why are you actually here…?’

When Ed Miliband travelled to Purley in Berkshire on Tuesday, he probably believed that he would be welcomed with open arms by its residents who have been hit badly following the recent floods. Alok Sharma, the Conservative MP for Reading West publicly expressed his thoughts towards the Leader of the Opposition’s visit.

After refusing to shake his hand he asked ‘the issue is Mr Miliband, why are you actually here?’ . Miliband (who took a quick glance at the camera) looked dazzled and confused. When he was finally given time to speak, he said the reason he was there was to pressure the government to do ‘everything possible’.  Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, also came under fire from a flood victim live on television.

These events lead to one question: What can politicians actually do at times like this?

For Ed Miliband, the answer is nothing. All he can do is persuade the government. At times like this, the people want actions not words. They want people there who can make a significant difference.  It would have also helped Miliband if the last Labour government tackled the issue of flooding. As Alok Sharma said, Labour did nothing to solve the flood problems that they had in 2003. As usual, we have also heard Miliband complaining about the slow government response without him saying what he would have done if he was in David Cameron’s position.

As Prime Minister, David Cameron has every right to be there. After all, he has the power to solve the situation. Although the Government was slow in dealing with the situation, we are seeing some solutions such as the announcement recently that money will be available to help flooded victims.

Constituents of Alok Sharma praised him for his approach to Miliband. The fact is people are fed up of politicians capitalising on the event that is making life miserable for many. MPs have every right to be visible in their constituencies at times of difficulty. Miliband’s attempt to look useful has backfired who has been branded a ‘Westminster flood tourist’ simply interested in a ‘photo opportunity’.

There has still been a lack of action from both the Environment Agency and the Government. The military now is helping the mist vulnerable. The people are growing restless but as David Cameron said ‘it’s going to take time’. Flooding is expected to continue. To solve the problem, we need to leave to the people who have the power to do so.

Ben Callaghan

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