The proverbial heavens have opened across Britain causing widespread chaos, but are politician’s PR-motivated visits justified?
Bad weather has once again dragged Britain to a halt with large areas of the South of England suffering both physically and financially from the stream of seemingly endless rain and flooding, leaving areas of Cornwall and Devon virtually isolated after critical damage to the vital Dawlish rail link.
As leaders continue to talk around the subject, many residents affected have publicly criticised their apparent failure to respond quick enough, causing David Cameron to make outlandish, impossible comments such as “money is no object” when it comes to repairing the vast amounts this weather has caused. This statement appeared to send shock-waves throughout the Conservative party and was quickly followed by the insistence of various ministers that this was “not a blank cheque”. These irresponsible remarks present a confused leadership in a time where unity across all points of the political spectrum is essential to tackle a “national emergency” such as this.
Unfortunately when it comes to the weather politicians are obviously restricted in what they can realistically achieve, causing many to don their wellies and attempt to reassure residents that everything is under control, involving a lot of meaningless gesturing and sombre expressions. However these recent field trips have backfired somewhat as they have been labelled “flood tourists” and accused of turning many people’s daily frustration and anguish into a cheap PR campaign, with many calling for a more practical response than ineffective sound bites. Politicians have even begun to turn on each other with videos surfacing of Ed Miliband being interrogated by local MP Mr. Alok Sharma who questioned the Labour leader on his motives behind the visit. Mr. Miliband was not alone on having such a public dressing-down from residents, as Conservative Defence Secretary Philip Hammond received a very frank update on the lack of progress and military response seen in Berkshire, all on live TV.
While this is a completely natural public response, rightly or wrongly public relations has become an integral part of British politics since the dramatic rise and success of New Labour in the 1990’s and shows little sign of loosening its grip. These extensive PR machines allow ministers little control over their professional appearance and activities, as so often satirised in British political dramas such as The Thick of It. For an aspiring Cabinet member or party leader to then refuse or abstain from wading around the streets of Somerset or the Thames Valley while it rules the headlines would risk them either being ignored by those in the Party who dictate their professional future or being labelled as ‘out of touch’ from the ordinary, hard-working people’s votes they so desperately want.
While the rain shows no sign of letting up, perhaps this time public relations advisers have actually lost control of the media they work so hard to predict, and unintentionally provide disillusioned residents with a platform to voice their discontent.
For 20 more great pictures of ‘Politicians in Wellies Staring At Floods’ visit Buzzfeed,com