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Fri, 10 July 2020

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Jeremy Corbyn brands Boris Johnson 'part-time prime minister' as he blasts floods response

Jeremy Corbyn brands Boris Johnson 'part-time prime minister' as he blasts floods response
3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Boris Johnson of being a “part-time” prime minister as he took aim at the Tory leader’s response to flooding across the UK.

The Labour leader said Mr Johnson had had his “head in the sand” while parts of the UK remain underwater in an angry clash at Prime Minister’s Questions.

But the Prime Minister accused Labour of turning inwards with a “narcissistic debate” on its own future, and said the Governemnt had been “investing massively” in flood defences.

Mr Johnson has faced criticism from the opposition parties over his decision not to visit areas affected by Storms Ciara and Dennis.

Critics have pointed out that Mr Johnson was prepared to visit areas affected by flooding during last year's general election campaign.

But Number 10 has said it did want to “distract” from the work being led by emergency services and the Environment Agency, and says the Prime Minister was kept updated on the response during a stay at the Foreign Secretary's grace-and-favour Chevening country house during last week's Parliamentary recess.

Laying into the Prime Minister in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn reeled off a string of incidents in which he argued Mr Johnson had made himself scarce. 

“The Prime Minister was keen to pose for cameras when there is a crisis on during the election, but we often goes AWOL,” the Labour leader said.

“He was late to respond to the London riots because 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 in a mansion in Kent.”

And he asked: “How can the country trust a part-time prime minister? Last night [he was] 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. 

“This government needs to step up to the plate and invest in defences and ensure there is real insurance for people whose homes are being ruined by these floods as we speak.”

But Mr Johnson mounted a robust defence of the Government’s record, saying: “Not only have we been investing massively in flood defences and compensating those who have suffered from flooding, but we have been stopping the early release of terrorists, we have restored the nurses’ bursary, we are beginning work on 40 new hospitals, [and] we are recruiting 20,000 more police officers.”

Talking up his government’s work to build what he called a “strong and dynamic economy”, the Prime Minister said Labour was instead focused on “jabbering away” about internal issues.

“They still can't decide whether they or not they want to be in the European Union and the hottest topic of debate in the Labour Party is what job should [Jeremy Corbyn] have in the Shadow Cabinet after the leadership election,” he said.

“They are engaging themselves in narcissistic debate about the Labour Party. We are getting on in delivering on the people's priorities.”

Ministers last week announced a raft of new measures to help those affected by the floods, including a new £500 "financial hardship payment" and council tax and business rates relief.

But Welsh politicians have been particularly critical of the Government’s response to the floods, this week calling for an emergency spending boost from Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help hard-hit areas.

There are currently two severe flood warnings - meaning a direct “danger to life” - in place on the River Severn, while 97 further flood warnings and 138 alerts are active across the UK.

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