Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’

Anti-Tory Cartoon – Esther McVey and Wasserman

June 28, 2017

Welcome to another instalment in my ongoing series of cartoons attacking the Tory party and their vile attack on the poor, the sick, the unemployed and disabled in the name of corporate profit. Yesterday I put up a drawing I’d made of Evan Davies, Andrew Lansley, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and George Osborne as members of a cannibalistic pagan cult, like the Aztecs or those of ancient Mesopotamia, because of the immense death toll their policies have inflicted on the British public. As I’ve blogged before, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by austerity in 2015. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, and 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ household, where they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford to eat tomorrow.

This cartoon continues the pagan theme of the last one. It therefore has a picture of Baal, the ancient pagan god of the Canaanites, and other gods from what is now Iraq, with human skulls and a strange, demonic creature, part man, part serpent. The two Tories depicted are, if I remember correctly, Esther McVey and Wasserman – I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten this Tory functionary’s first name.

McVey was the Tory minister for the disabled in Iain Duncan Smith’s wretched and murderous DWP. She used to be the MP for Merseyside or one of the other constituencies in the Liverpool area, before the good burghers of that fair city got fed up with her and threw her out at the last election. Those Liverpudlians not enamoured of her – and there were quite a few – called her the ‘Wicked Witch of the Wirral’. Unfortunately, losing an election doesn’t seem to have put a stop to her political career, and she flew off on her broomstick to take up a position with the Tories in another constituency. She was also one of the proprietors of a TV production company, which produced the ‘poverty porn’ documentaries, intended to confirm the prejudices of all good Conservative voters that those on benefit are unemployed, not because there are no jobs due to structural problems with the economy, but because they’re really lazy.

So to express the deep festering corruption in this woman’s soul – Mike and the other bloggers and disabled rights’ activists found that in one year, 13-14,000 disabled people had died after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos – I’ve drawn one half of her face a seething mass of malignant pustules. So great was the carnage inflicted by this woman and her superiors in the department, that one wag amended her Wikipedia page so that she became ‘The minister in charge of culling the disabled’. Which is exactly how Mike and many other bloggers and commenters, like Jeffrey Davies regard her. Mike has made it very clear that this is the genocide of the disabled.

As for Wasserman, he was one of the two ministers, who prepared various documents for the privatisation of the NHS for Maggie Thatcher. She was forced to back down from this policy after there was a mass cabinet revolt, and her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, told her just how bad the American system was. Nevertheless, it did not stop her from trying to get more people to get out private health insurance – she aimed at 25 per cent of the British public. And successive right-wing administrations, including Tony Blair’s New Labour, have been aiming at the privatisation of the NHS ever since, gradually selling off parts of it and passing legislation to allow private hospital management chains and healthcare companies, like Circle Health, to take over the running of doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. Wasserman later appeared in David Cameron’s cabinet, where I would guess that he was doing much the same there as he did under Thatcher.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that he will end the fitness to work tests and the sanctions system, which have seen so many people thrown off benefits for the most trivial of reasons. He has also promised to renationalise the NHS, thus ending nearly forty years of creeping Thatcherite privatisation.

So vote for him for a fairer Britain, where everyone has access to free healthcare, and tens of thousands are not dying of starvation just so that billionaires can have their tax bill lowered, or have a supply of cheap, subsidised labour supplied to them courtesy of the workfare industry.

If you wish to see the faces and know a bit more about some of individuals, who have been killed by the Tories’ assault on the welfare state, Mike, DPAC, Johnny Void and Stilloaks have published articles on individual victims, and lists of those, who have died, complete with brief descriptions of the circumstances of their deaths. The last time I looked, it was about 500-600 plus people, but the true figure is many times higher.

To stop the carnage the Tories have inflicted and are continuing to inflict, vote Labour.

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Cartoon of the Tories as Pagan Cannibal Cult

June 27, 2017

This is another of the cartoons I drew a few years ago of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg and its cheerleaders and propagandists in the media.

As I’ve written in my posts about the other cartoons I’ve drawn of them, the Tories are responsible for misery and deaths in Britain on a massive scale. This has been a direct result of their austerity policy of freezing wages, cutting benefits and their use of the sanctions system within the DWP to throw tens of thousands off benefits every year, often for the most trivial of reasons. Terminally ill patients on their death beds have been told that their benefit has been removed, because they’re ‘fit for work’. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back. People have had their jobseekers allowance removed, because they missed an interview at the jobcentre due to being in hospital at the time. Disabled people with mobility problems have been required to attend fitness for work interviews at offices situated several floors up, with little or nothing in the way of disabled access.

Whistleblowers have also come forward to say that the DWP and the outsourcing companies it employs, such as Atos, have a quota system in which they are supposed to get a certain proportion of claimants off benefits regardless of their actual physical condition. Staff in jobcentres have also been awarded prizes, such as gold stars, sheriff’s badges, Easter eggs and so on for being the clerk, who has got the most people off benefit that week.

The result has been carnage. Mike and other disability bloggers managed, after a very lengthy campaign, to get figures from the DWP showing that for a given period, 13-14,000 people died after being found fit for work by Atos and the DWP. Researchers at Oxford University have found that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people. This means that from 2015 to date, in mid-2017, and including Mike’s figures for an earlier period, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, have killed 87-88,000 people with their policies.

Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks as they have no income due to their benefits being removed. Seven million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where it’s a struggle simply finding the money for this week’s food. Women are going hungry, because if they feed themselves, they’ll starve their children.

Meanwhile, the assault on the state sector continues. The Tories are pushing ahead with the privatisation of the NHS, transferring state healthcare which is free at the point of use into a private, for-profit system like the American system.

And so I decided to draw them as members of a pagan, cannibalistic cult like the Aztecs, or like those of the ancient Canaanites and the demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion.

Thus I drew David Cameron eating a human arm, and George Osborne wearing a human skull as a headdress. I decided to depict Alan Duncan with empty eye sockets and eyes in the palms of his hands, like the sinister Pale Man in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Behind Cameron and Duncan loom a sculpture of a demon from ancient Iraq, and a human skeleton. Below Duncan and to his right is the figure of an ancient Mesopotamian priest or king. Left of Cameron is a drawing of Eric Pickles, who was one of the ministers in Cameron’s cabinet. I’m afraid the drawing’s a bit smudged, so you may not be able to make him out. And behind and to the left of him is Evan Davies, the BBC presenter. I put him in after he made some comment supporting the Tories or austerity.

And below Davies and Pickles is Andrew Lansley, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s wretched health minister. Lansley was responsible for a piece of convoluted legislation way back in 2012, which effectively removes the health minister from his statutory obligation, dating from the establishment of the NHS in 1948, to provide state healthcare. This is one of the major legal foundations for the Tories’ planned eventual privatisation of the NHS. See the discussion of this in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book, NHS-SOS. And so I gave Lansley a sign saying ‘NHS – For Sale. Apply A Lansley’.

Since I drew the cartoon, Lansley’s been replaced by the equally appalling Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has been responsible for plunging tens of British hospitals into massive debt as part of the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

Adding insult to injury is the lies the Tories are spinning about this crisis. People, according to them, aren’t going to food banks because they’re hungry. No! It’s because it’s free food. In fact, you can only use a food bank if you have a chit from the Jobcentre to say that you don’t have any money. And when Theresa May was asked by a TV presenter whether it was right that nurses should have to use food banks, she could only reply the weak excuse ‘There are complex reasons.’

There aren’t any complex reasons. There’s a very simple one: the Tories are paying starvation wages. Whey they are actually paying anyone, that is.

Davis and Tallis also point out that the NHS was in budget under the Labour administration the Tories replaced. And state expenditure was actually lower under Labour. But despite massive cuts to the NHS, the Tories are lying that the financial crisis, which they are using as their pretext to cut services and benefits, was all due to ‘high spending Labour’, rather than the 2008 financial crash created by corrupt bankers. And while NHS budgets are being cut to the bone and beyond, they’re also trying to tell the public that real expenditure on the NHS is higher than ever before in real terms.

All lies.

Bloggers such as Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike and DPAC have blogged about some of the victims, who have been killed by this murderous policy, and there are lists, art works and videos commemorating them. At present, the people on these lists number 500-600 plus, but this is just a tiny fraction of those, who have died.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to undo the Neoliberalism and austerity that is killing tens of thousands of people every year. He intends to scrap the fitness for work tests, pay people proper benefits and renationalise the NHS.

So please, vote for him and end the Tories’ reign of death and misery against the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the lower middle and working classes.

Lib Dem Deselected due to Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 6, 2017

Mike has also put up today a piece reporting that the national Labour party has suspended him following the smears that he is an anti-Semite propagated by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, as reported in the local Welsh press. This is not only libel, but an infringement of the Local Government Act. Any attempt to influence a local election through the publications of smears and libels against a candidate is a criminal offence, as I understand it. Also guilty of libel is the local Tory MP, who voiced his opinion on Mike’s character after he was asked about the allegations without really knowing anything about them or their background. Mike has therefore asked the Dyfed-Powys police to investigate the organisations and people involved.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/06/no-council-seat-for-vox-political-writer-because-of-politically-motivated-interference/

He wasn’t the only person, who saw their political ambitions derailed due to allegations of anti-Semitism. This week the I newspaper reported that a Lib Dem MP, David Ward had been deselected by Tim Farron as the candidate for Bradford East, following similar allegations. These were brought up in the House by Eric Pickles and then echoed by Theresa May.

Andrew Neil picked over the issue last Sunday on his show with Baroness Warsi and Joe Sorene. From what I gather from their comments and the brief report about it in the I newspaper, this involved comments about the brutality of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Warsi and Sorene got very offended about Ward’s statement that Israel is an apartheid state. They claimed that this was nasty and anti-Semitic, and there were other ways to talk about this issue. The I also reported that he had said that he would have fired rockets into Israel. Neil also said that, going through Ward’s comments, there was only one which he thought was anti-Semitic. This was when Ward stopped referring to the Israel and blamed the Jews.

I don’t really know the background to this, but this is how it very much appears to me at the moment. The comments about firing rockets into Israel sounds like a reference to the Israelis’ bombardment of Gaza. As Counterpunch pointed out, the Israelis deliberately attacked Gaza, or a Palestinian terrorist resident there, I’m not sure which, in order to provoke a retaliation. They then screamed very loudly that the Palestinians had broken the truce, and started shelling.

This reminds me very strongly of the kind cowardly bullying that many people have suffered in school. You know – the school bully punches you when the teacher’s not looking. You hit them back, and he or she starts wailing ‘You hit me – it’s your fault’, while cheered on by his gang of snitches. Only in the case of Israel and the Palestinians, it’s being done with bombs and guns. And teacher is the court of international opinion. The tactics and mentality behind it remain the same, however.

As for Israel being an apartheid state, it might offend the Israelis and their supporters to hear it, but that’s exactly what it is. Palestinians are being forced off their ancestral land and into small, increasingly squalid and cramped enclaves, just like the White settlers in apartheid South Africa also forced the indigenous Black peoples off their ancestral lands and into the Bantustans, the squalid ‘homelands’ situated in areas of poor soil that the Whites did not want. Palestinians have to go through checkpoint after checkpoint, enduring harsh security simply to move around as they pass from ‘Palestine’ to Israel. Israel similarly has pursued a decades-long policy of ethnic cleansing, forcing the Palestinians out of their lands as part of their policy of expansion. Finally, like the Blacks under apartheid, there is a separate pay scale for Jewish and Arab Israelis under the Hayadoth system.

Despite the declarations of Warsi and Sorene that there are ways of talking about these issues, that don’t involve the comparisons with South Africa, the whole point of these allegations is to close down the debate. Warsi and Sorene did not say what these ways of discussing the situation were. And it seems to me that the attacks on critics of Israel is to limit discussion in such a way to rule out any criticism of Israeli expansionism, or that the Palestinians may have just cause for resisting their brutalisation and dispossession.

As for Ward’s comments about ‘the Jews’, if he’s stating that Jewry as a whole is responsible for the atrocities against the Palestinians, he’s clearly wrong. However, the fault is not entirely his own. The Israeli government and the pro-Zionist establishment in Britain is also partly responsible. Netanyahu has tried to deflect criticism of his government’s treatment of the Palestinians by passing a law that officially designates Jews everywhere as Israelis. Thus, any criticism of Israel becomes an attack on the Jewish people as a whole. Of course, the very many Jewish opponents of Netanyahu and his thugs reject this straightforward identification. One Jewish anti-Zionist, who writes for Counterpunch stated that he found it ridiculous that the Israeli Law of Return allows him to ‘return’ to Israel despite the fact that he was born in Anchorage in Alaska, while Palestinians, who have been born in what is now Israel, are being expelled and deported as foreigners.

Even the Israeli government doesn’t, it seems, really believe that all Jews are equally Israelis. A month or so ago Counterpunch also put up another reporting on the many Jewish critics of Israel’s treatment of its indigenous Arabs, who have been stopped from entering the country when they tried to go there. So much for Israel as a pluralist state which respects freedom of opinion. All Jews are citizens of Israel … except those that aren’t.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the Zionist organisations seem to present themselves as the official voice of the Jewish people. If all a non-Jewish person hears is the Zionists loudly justifying their attacks on innocents in the name of Jews worldwide, then it probably isn’t surprising when they also confuse ‘Israel’ and ‘Zionist’ with ‘Jews’. That’s the whole point of the rhetoric.

It’s disgusting. Jews aren’t responsible for the brutalities inflicted on the Palestinians. Nor even the Israeli people, many of whom also question and oppose their government over this. The Israeli state is. But the Israeli state and its supporters abroad are trying to destroy this distinction, so that they can hide behind accusations of anti-Semitism directed at their critics.

And as we’ve seen, these critics include very many sincere, anti-racist campaigners and activists, both gentile and Jewish. Many of Israel’s Jewish critics have suffered real assault and abuse because of their ethnic and religious heritage. And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that many of their gentile comrades have also suffered abuse and intimidation because of their opposition to anti-Semitism and friendship with Jews.

Mike’s been a victim of the policy, as have so many other decent people. It looks like David Ward may have been another one. The real thugs and bullies in this case are the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and mendacious politicians like the Blairites in Labour, and Eric Pickles and Theresa May in the Tories. These politicos are simply opportunists, caring nothing for the truth and merely wanting to make political capital from the smears and libels inflicted on women and men, who are their moral superiors in every sense.

More on Progress, the Groaniad, and the Israel Lobby

September 27, 2016

Lobster 70 also had some very interesting little snippets about the Israel lobby, and its connections to sections of the Labour party and the press, specifically ‘Progress’, and the Guardian.

‘Progress’ is the Blairite faction within the Labour party. In ‘Tittle-Tattle’ for that issue, Tom Easton praises Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star for his work investigating and exposing Progress and its dodgy donors. Hughes had written about the close connection between Tristram Hunt and David Sainsbury. As I’ve blogged previously, Sainsbury was a big corporate donor to the Labour party under Blair and Brown. He stopped funding the party as a whole when Ed Miliband became leader, but, according to Hughes, he continued funding Progress. Just as he continued funding the SDP rump under Dr David Owen after the rest of it had merged with the Liberals. One of the SDP’s members was Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

In November 2014 Hughes described Hunt’s speech at the previous Labour Conference, in which he made a joke about the secretive and numerically small nature of the faction, which did not go down well with the Progress hordes. He wrote

‘When I went to the Progress rally at the last Labour conference, Tristram Hunt was one of the speakers, where he declared he was “delighted to be with Progress” because “you might be an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire, but you are OUR unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire”.

Here were two dozen true words spoken in jest. Hunt’s joke was so close to the bone that the shiny happy people of Progress — this is one of the biggest events on Labour’s fringe — seemed embarrassed into silence.

Hunt’s insistence that Progress was “the Praetorian Guard, the Parachute Regiment, the Desert Rats of Labour” also raised few laughs, even though the meeting took place in a Comedy Club at the edge of the Labour conference site. Even joking that Progress is new Labour’s shock troops was a bit too much.’

One of Progress’ board members is Patrick Diamond, who is a long-time associated of Peter Mandelson. He is the Vice-Chair of Mandy’s Policy Network, as well as frequently contributing columns to the Guardian. Progress’ president is Stephen Twigg, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Progress’ chair, John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, contributed the foreword to the Labour Friends of Israel’s The Progressive Case for Israel. And when it seemed Liz Kendall was about to don the mantle of leadership for New Labour, she got a positive press from the Jewish Chronicle. The week after Labour lost the election, the newspaper ran the headline, ‘Labour Must Now Pass the Israel Test’. Which shows just how close New Labour is to the Israel lobby. And in another item in the same column, Easton states that another former chairman of the LFI is Jim Murphy, the head of Scottish Labour. Which sheds yet more light on his determination to block Rhea Wolfson’s attempts to get on to the NEC. Murphy persuaded her local Labour party not to back her because of her links to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum, despite the fact that they’re not, and Wolfson herself is Jewish.

A further item, ‘Grauniada’, also comments that that the Graun’s connections to Zionism goes back ‘to the early days of both’, noting that the newspaper itself had told the story of its relationship with Israel in 2008 when it published Daphna Baram’s Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel. The same item also notes that Jonathan Freedland, one of the leading critics of Jeremy Corbyn, is also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle.

All this shows the very strong connections between New Labour, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the Jewish Chronicle, and how they are absolutely united in their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

The same item in Lobster also speculates on how long the connection between the Graun and Zionism will survive, now that the new editor-in-chief is Katherine Viner. Viner and Alan Rickman produced a theatre production based on the diary entries and writings of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was the American peace activist, who was killed by bulldozer driven by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2003.

There’s also another section in that part of the magazine specifically about the Israel lobby. Most of the politicians reported in that item, ‘Israel Lobby News’, are Conservatives and Lib Dems, such as Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg’s head of communications, James Sorene, who went off to head BICOM, while local councillors elected in May that year were invited to join the Local Government Friends of Israel by Rachel Kaye, the Executive Director of We Believe in Israel. Kaye stated that the director of We Believe in Israel was Luke Akehurst, a former Labour councillor for Hackney, and had worked with Peter Mandelson’s former press secretary in the PR and lobbying firm Weber Shandwick.

Private Eye on the Dodgy Foundations of the Troubled Families Programme

February 17, 2015

I also found this article in the 27th July – 9th August edition of Private Eye criticising the government’s Troubled Families Programme. This was an initiative to tackle the problem families that feature so much in Tory propaganda and the pages of the Daily Mail. They’re the type of neighbours for whom ASBOs were invented, and whom Gordon Brown famously declared to be ‘feckless’.

The problem is, as the Eye reveals, there simply aren’t that many of them to require the massive amounts the government wishes to spend on the programme. Coupled with the fact that the contractor hired to carry out the programme is G4S, with its superb reputation for quality. Here’s the story:

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is itself troubled after coming under sustained attack from critics who argue that it’s simply blaming people who are poor rather than tackling anti-social behaviour.

Ever since it was launched by the unlikely figure of community secretary Eric Pickles, experts have criticised the foundations of its claim that there are 120,000 “troubled families” whose behaviour costs the country£9bn. They point out that the 120,000 statistic is based on an estimate of families with multiple disadvantages, not antisocial behaviour, and that nobody can come up with figures to justify the £9bn stated.

Just as well, then, that extra help is at hand. Under a £200m outreach service run in conjunction with councils and companies delivering the Work Programme, six firms will be staking their own money on their ability to turn troubled lives around under the government’s second big payment-by-results project.

Troubled families and local authorities in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington are especially fortunate to have assistance from a company that specialises in managing and co-ordinating the provision of services “to support workless people into meaningful, progressive employment”. Step forward, fresh from its triumph at the Olympics, G4S.

From this is appears that the Troubled Families Programme has been launched not because there is an actual need for the programme, but to satisfy the ideological and propagandistic needs of the Tories. As well as provide a nice little earner for the welfare-to-work companies.

Tory unemployment policy is based on the principle of ‘less eligibility’. Poverty isn’t due to economics and poor circumstances. It’s due to laziness and poor character of the unemployed themselves. Hence all the stories in the Daily Mail about problem families, and areas of high unemployment riddled with crime and plagued by drugs. The criminality and drug problems in those areas aren’t due to lack of job opportunities and poverty. No, they are the results of the immoral character of the people themselves, who prefer the squalor and misery of their lives to one of honest and respectable toil. and if people like them don’t exist, or exist in much smaller numbers, then it also casts doubt on Tory welfare policies as a whole. Without them, there is much less justification for harassing the disabled and ordinary unemployed. In order to keep up this façade that unemployment is all down to the anti-social bad attitude of the unemployed themselves, the government needs to be able to point to a large number of such ‘problem families’. And these clearly are invented through exaggerated and massaged statistics when they don’t exist. Hence the inflated statistics.

It also shows just how much of a scam the welfare-to-work industry is as well. I’ve posted a series of blogs on the repeated scandals of the welfare-to-work firms overcharging the government, to its marked indifference and even, it has been alleged, support and connivance. Private Eye has argued that the economics involved in government outsourcing means that these firms are only commercially viable through such fraud. It would appear from this that the Tories know this too, and so are desperate to give work to the private contractors in order to maintain the profitable illusion that private enterprise really is more efficient than government bureaucracy.

Quite apart from the fact that these companies may also be able to offer lucrative directorships in their turn, when the terms in power of certain MPs come to an end.

Conservative Apologies and Lies in Flooded Somerset

February 10, 2014

somersetfloods1

‘How do you know when a politician’s lying?’
‘His lips move.’

-Old Joke told on the Max Headroom Show circa 1986.

‘How do you know when David Cameron is lying?’
‘I refer the honourable gentleman/lady to the answer to the previous question.’

David Cameron will be touring the flooded areas of south-western England this morning trying to reassure the poor souls there that the government is doing its uttermost to combat the disaster and help the people recover their homes, land and livelihoods that are now drowned under the flood waters.

It’s a horrific disaster, as a brief glance at the pictures coming from the affected areas show. In Somerset people have had to be moved out of their houses, while farmer’s have lost crops as the floods covered their fields. One farmer was faced with the stark choice between selling or giving some of his cattle away, or sending them to be slaughtered as he had nowhere he could keep them, so hard was his farm hit by the floods.

During prehistory, and then in the early middle ages the Somerset levels was marshland, and some memory of the extend of the marsh environment is shown in area’s place names. The ‘ey’ in the names of places such as Muchelney, Athelney and so on comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘ieg’, meaning an island. These villages were islands of dry land in the surrounding marsh. During the Neolithic the local people constructed the Sweet Track, a timber walkway through the marsh supported by poles as a way of getting across the marshy environment. Similar wooden tracks crossing the north German moors were built during the Iron Age.

The marshland was gradually reclaimed from the 13th century onwards, though by the end of the 17th century only about a 1/3 of the levels was dry land. The remaining land was reclaimed during the 18th and 19th centuries. Water management and drainage has continued to be vital to the maintenance of the Levels, as the area is criss-crossed by a series of ‘rhines’ and drainage channels, like the King’s Sedgemoor Drain. Historically it has suffered from terrible floods. One in the early 17th century, created through a combination of bad weather and a tidal surge up the Severn Estuary, drowned houses, fields and livestock with the flood waters advancing about eight miles from Glastonbury itself. One eyewitness to this inundation recalled seeing crows perching on floating sheep, until the sheep in their turn sank and drowned. Fortunately the modern floods aren’t that severe, but they’re harmful enough to the people down there, who’ve had to be moved out of their houses.

Cameron visited the area yesterday, promising the local people that there would be every effort to combat the floods and that £3 million had been allocated to do this. He also made other, predictable claims that the government was spending more on flood defences than the Labour government.

Cameron has been merely the latest in a line of politicians and public figures to come down to look at the disaster and speak to its victims. They included Chris Smith, the environment secretary, and Prince Charles. Smith’s response to the crisis had caused even more anger. The local Tory MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, was furious at the way the environment agency had handled the disaster. He stated that when the area had suffered flooding a year ago, he spoke to Smith, who promised that suitable action would be taken. Nothing, however, was done. Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Eric Pickles offered an unconditional apology to the people of Somerset for the way the government had mishandled it. Liddell-Grainger had gone even further, and demanded Smith’s resignation. Smith duly appeared on TV to say he had absolutely no intention of resigning, and was completely satisfied with his Agency’s actions. This had simply infuriated Mr Liddell-Grainger even more, and no doubt contributed to the apology offered by Pickles.

Cameron also acknowledged that mistakes had been made. He stated that the Agency had stopped dredging the Levels in the 1990s, and that this was a mistake.

Now the floods wreaking havoc throughout the country are a vital issue for Cameron and his administration. Not only are they a national disaster, but the areas affected are of crucial political importance for the Tory party. Like much of rural England, parts of Somerset are a Tory heartland. My parents have joked before now that in some of the villages, there used to be only two social clubs you could join when they were young: the Farmers’ Union and the Young Conservatives. With the Tories now suffering competition from UKIP, Cameron needs to show the Tories’ traditional constituents that he is indeed acting on their behalf.

Mixed in the with promises, however, are liberal amounts of the lies, which you can expect from a Tory leader. I’ve reblogged a piece from Mike over at Vox Political, on the way the way the BBC – surprisingly! – picked up the way the Tories had manipulated the graphs showing funding for the Environment Agency to suggest that it was actually much larger than it actually was. As for their claim that the Tories were now spending more on flood defences than Labour, this is may well be true. Now. After the floods had occurred, and demanded immediate action. I doubt very, very much this was the case before though. An administration dedicated to cutting government spending, and which reneged on its promises to preserve the NHS, is hardly likely to have left the Environment Agency untouched.

As for Cameron’s acknowledgement that they had stopped dredging in the 1990s, and this was a mistake, this occurred under the last Tory prime minister, John Major. During Major’s administration Private Eye ran a number of stories reporting the way government agencies and watchdogs regulating the environment and the utilities were increasingly downsized, with their powers restricted, in order to give greater freedom to industry. I’ve got a feeling that one of these was almost certainly the Environment Agency or its predecessor. Cameron’s government is similarly dedicated to minimising, if not removing altogether, government regulation and interference, and so I cannot see any long term changes occurring under Cameron. In fact, I can see the complete opposite. After the floods recede, what will probably happen is that, after a brief show of some token of increased funding or activity, the Environment Agency will go back to doing as little as possible as usual. Worse, it will probably be under pressure to cut services further to make savings to make up for the vast amount spent dealing with the floods. So despite Cameron’s grandiose claims, the people currently hit by the floods will be less protected afterwards than they were before.

What matters is not that permanent solutions are put in place to tackle the floods and prevent them occurring all over again. What matters is that Cameron is seen to be doing something, so that he can continue to cling to power and make further savings by slashing government expenditure. This is what his paymasters in the multinationals want. And the locals in Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Berkshire will be left to fend for themselves.