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FLOOD VICTIMS in South Yorkshire turned their backs on Boris Johnson today when an election publicity stunt backfired on the Prime Minister.
Five days after floods devastated communities in the county, Mr Johnson belatedly visited one of the worst-hit areas, accompanied by a contingent of invited press reporters and television crews.
But residents told him: “I don’t want to talk to you” and “You took your time.”
By contrast, a visit by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to meet rescue workers four days earlier took place without fanfare or orchestrated publicity.
Residents criticised the Tory government for not only failing to declare a national emergency to get help to their flood-wrecked communities but also for imposing long-term cuts on funding for emergency services in South Yorkshire, limiting their ability to respond to the crisis.
The worst-hit area of the county is the Doncaster metropolitan district. The river Don overflowed five days ago deluging local villages and flooding homes, in particular the village of Fishlake.
Doncaster Labour councillor Tosh McDonald, a former president of train drivers’ union Aslef, told the Morning Star: “Aid has been coming in, but not from the government. It’s coming from former mining communities like Stainforth.”
Stainforth, itself flooded, is close to the site of Hatfield Main colliery, which was the last pit in South Yorkshire when it closed in 2015. Many former miners and their families live there.
“There’s been food coming in from Stainforth, clothing, bedding, all sorts,” said Mr McDonald.
“In the local church, the pews are stacked with stuff to help people whose homes have been flooded.
“Volunteers are even collecting people’s medical prescriptions because local chemists have been flooded.
“Then Johnson arrives and says there’ll be £500 for each resident whose home has been flooded. It’s pathetic. There’s been no government action.
“Instead of doing a publicity stunt like Boris Johnson did, Jeremy Corbyn came without cameras to meet local firefighters. Some of them have been working 18-hour shifts. There’s been rescue units drafted in from Lincolnshire.”
He said the government’s failure to respond “shows the continuing contempt all Tory governments have shown to all former mining and industrial communities.”
During his belated publicity visit, Mr Johnson was told by one Stainforth resident: “I’m not very happy about talking to you so, if you don’t mind, I’ll just mope on with what I’m doing.”
The woman, pushing a wheelbarrow carrying salvaged effects, said: “I don’t know what you’re here today for.”
Another told him: “You’ve took your time Boris, haven’t you?”
Mr Corbyn said: “This last week has confirmed what we’ve seen over the last decade: the Tories always ignore the north’s needs.
“We need to do everything we can to help those families who have already suffered and protect communities from further potential flooding.”
He pledged a £5.6 billion programme of spending on flood defences in the north.
According to the Fire Brigades Union, there are 11,468 fewer firefighters than in 2010 because of government cuts, and the last three years has seen £155 million lopped from fire and rescue budgets.
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