Leading article

Floods of incompetence - why Chris Smith should resign from the Environment Agency

Most floods are an act of nature. This one belongs to the Environment Agency

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

When Prince Charles arrived in Somerset to meet some of those caught up in the disaster which in five weeks has drowned 50 square miles of that county in floodwater, a reporter asked him whether he blamed the Environment Agency. Judiciously, he replied, ‘You may well think that — I couldn’t possibly comment.’ Later, having spoken to several of those intimately involved in this crisis, he hinted rather more plainly at his own view by saying, ‘The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long.’

With the third flood disaster to hit the Somerset Levels in three years, the Environment Agency has been horribly caught out by a catastrophe largely of its own making. As local experts have been trying to point out since last year’s flood (and as some hammered home to the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, when he recently made an emergency visit to Somerset), the unprecedented scale of this mess is not just due to nature. It is a disaster that has resulted from a deliberate policy followed by the Environment Agency since, 18 years ago, it was given overall responsibility for river management and flood defences throughout England.

For centuries the Somerset Levels — covering a fifth of all that large county’s farmland — had been kept efficiently drained, ever since they were first transformed from a marshy swamp into productive farmland by Dutch engineers in the reign of Charles I. They had been expertly managed by farmers and engineers, through more than a thousand miles of drains and ditches that were regularly cleaned, and since the 19th century by scores of pumping stations.

Many of our cherished ancient habitats are, of course, created and managed by man. It has been a long time since nature was self-regulating in this country in the way that some in the Environment Agency seem to wish it to be. The British have been living on reclaimed land for hundreds of years — which is what makes it so bizarre that quangocrats seem to think such areas should no longer enjoy proper protection.

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The key to the Somerset Levels lies in its rivers, kept dredged to provide all that water pumped off the land with an escape route down to the sea. From the moment the Environment Agency took over, however, it began to neglect its responsibility for keeping those rivers clear. From 2000 onwards, under the leadership of a Labour peeress, Baroness Young of Old Scone, this reluctance to dredge and to maintain the pumping stations became a deliberate ideology, designed to give priority to the interests of ‘habitat’ and ‘biodiversity’ over those of protecting the Levels as farmland. Lady Young is famously said to have remarked that she wanted to see ‘a limpet mine attached to every pumping station’.

The undredged rivers gradually become clogged with silt, drastically reducing their ability to take floodwater away. The Somerset farmers and engineers who run the local ‘drainage boards’, responsible for cleaning the ditches or ‘rhynes’, also found that the Environment Agency was forever on their backs, imposing every kind of restriction on what needed to be done; such as how they could dispose of the resulting silt and vegetation, now classified as rigorously ‘controlled waste’.

The inevitable result has been the shambles which those who live on the Levels have now had to endure for years. They have always been accustomed to winter flooding of the vast area that is below sea level. But this is worse than anything in memory — not just more extensive but lasting for months rather than weeks. The cost this year may be in excess of £100 million. Dredging the rivers would cost £4.5 million, which the Agency found to be excessive. (Although it cheerfully footed the £31 million bill for a bird sanctuary.)

Steadily, the Environment Agency has become a law unto itself. The idea behind its creation was to allow it to operate free from political interference. But, as Dennis Sewell argues on pages 18 and 19, the reverse has been true. They now form a deeply politicised government in exile, with an incompetent but self-revering hierarchy that voters cannot dislodge.

Nothing has more vividly conveyed the failure of the Environment Agency during this crisis than the lamentable public performances of its current chairman, the former Labour culture secretary Lord (Chris) Smith. His weak, half-shifty, half-arrogant interviews have shown him up to be a man wholly out of touch with the reality of the havoc his agency’s policies have wreaked. His blatherings about a choice between protecting ‘front rooms or farmland’ sums up his failure to understand the countryside, and the fact that most people have looked after both for generations.

He is due to step down shortly, which is a shame: he ought to be fired for rank incompetence. But the reckoning should not stop there. It is now clear that the Environment Agency has become a threat to the countryside it was set up to serve. It ought to be dismantled, and its responsibilities shared out among smaller bodies which are much more obviously fit for purpose.

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Show comments
  • White Wednesday

    This doesn’t tell the full story. The Environment Agency is indeed complicit but what’s the driver behind this catastrophe?

    Yep, it’s our old friend the European Union and its environmental nonsense and “sustainability” agenda (of which Cameron is a fully signed-up member).

    Full details here: http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

    Time for Brexit.

    • HenryWood

      Very well said, White Wednesday, and yet, while you point the way to a totally factual explanation of just what is really going on, someone who reads the likes of The Spectator decides to mark your post down.
      Hmmmm … I can only think it was maybe the Editor or one of his cohorts!
      🙂

      • matism

        Or Baroness Young???

  • Peter Stroud

    Lord Smith is stepping down soon: but this should not stop the Environment Secretary sacking him today, at a moments notice. He is just another example of ‘jobs for the boys’. How is it that both political Parties are allowed to reward their completely unqualified honourable and Rt Honourable friends with ‘nice little earners’, that qualified professionals should compete for?

    • Pip

      Smith should be prosecuted for misconduct in public office.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      How could the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs do that given that he has been relieved of his duties and is now a mere Food bank minister?

    • Graeme S

      Troughing at the most deplorable standard

    • Nigel Tipple

      Eventually the truth about the EA’s attitude to all of this will emerge. They are not telling it at the moment.
      As for the broader climate debate, if you’d like to understand how the warmists shut down any debate with which they disagree, have a listen to the ghastly Tim Yeo shutting up Michael Lilley during the course of todays Commons Committee. As Lilley said, Yeo’s behaviour was an utter disgrace. The sooner he’s out of Parliament, the better.

  • bravo22c

    While neglecting our own countryside, our purported government gave £80,000,000 to Turkey last year to fix their drains…

    • BoiledCabbage

      How cool does the UK look after that? Cameron, especially, looks really really cool just giving £mmmillions away all over the place! Such a cool guy…..

      • http://cambriandissenters.blogspot.com/ Daniel Tekel Thomas

        Best comment of the lot which hits the nail on the head. Cameron is posturing on the international stage, burnishing his ‘humanitarian’ credentials in preparation for a sinecure when he gets booted out of office.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Smith should be given a yoke, a pair of buckets and a pair of wellies. He should then be required to spend the next year collecting water into the buckets and emptying them into the rivers.

    Which idiot renewed his contract in 2011?

  • Jules Wright

    Would BP appoint a CEO with no experience of petrochemicals? No. Or BAe a CEO with no experience of aviation or defence. No. Why then does Westminster deem it acceptable to put a clueless, incompetent and ignorant part-timer in charge of an organisation as important as TEA? And not just there but regularly elsewhere. The fish always rots from the head. Spectator: we need a Rogue’s Gallery of all the nil-qualified senior management appointees amongst all government agencies and quangos.

    The cleansing power of sunlight in dark places … if the best you can be is awkward, then be awkward.

    • Tom M

      “…..Why then does Westminster deem it acceptable to put a clueless, incompetent and ignorant part-timer…..”
      Oh how I agree with that.
      To find an answer however you need look no further than the government itself. My favorite example is the last government’s line up of “competent” ministers. The education department of Great Britain run by an ex-postman for example and just to make sure they moved him to the NHS.
      I imagine the government minister’s thought process is along the lines of ” just what does it take to run one of these departments? After all I can run this one and it’s bigger”.

      • ramesesthegrumbler

        The trouble is you will find it difficult to select a single politician that has the ability to run an agency like TEA. But it was ever thus. Irrespective of rosette the chinless wonders were never known for their managerial ability because they don’t need such skills. Up until 1997 there was a layer of management beneath the ministerial team which used to do the actual work of the department. Unfortunately Labour removed these public servants and replaced them with their own supporters – yet more incompetent chin less wonders.
        Now no one keeps the buggers in check and we end up with situations like this. Ideology trumps reason every time with these idiots.

        • Seth_the_pig_farmer

          Why have an ex-politician head it up?

          He has no democratic legitimacy or professional competence.

          There are only 3 options that are acceptable.
          1. Recruit a suitably qualified industry professional
          2. Appoint an elected politician to implement government policy articulated through parliament and delivered by civil servants.
          3. Directly elect an individual who would have a mandate to follow the policies they put forward while on the stump, with the right of recall if they fail.

          • rtj1211

            Why not get the local councils to raise specific money for dredging and cut the levels of central government income tax as a result??

            That way, it’s controlled locally and the people who answer for the service are in the locality also?

    • Roger Davis

      Dead right, so why do we have a History student as Chancellor

      • Jeffrey Vernon

        Do you think an economist or banker would do better?

        • Roger Davis

          economist

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            This might make sense if the chancellor was truly in charge; but now that there is no political oversight, and the economy is a technical matter run by the bank of England, you might as well have a historian. Or a PPE graduate (like Nigel Lawson).

          • gelert

            The only thing more dangerous than an amateur economist is a professional economist.

    • HenryWood

      “Spectator: we need a Rogue’s Gallery of all the nil-qualified senior
      management appointees amongst all government agencies and quangos.
      The cleansing power of sunlight in dark places … if the best you can be is awkward, then be awkward.”

      A very, very pertinent comment but unfortunately, a suggestion which will *never* *ever* be taken up by The Spectator or indeed any other so called independent political publications. Even “Private Eye” steers clear of upsetting the Westminster bubble these days.
      Look to the blogs, my dear, especially the likes of eureferendum.com. You will there see everything exposed in its dark glory.
      (I wonder how long this post will last?)

      • anyoldiron

        Have you checked the EU Directives to see if they actually mention that the dredging of rivers should no longer take place? Would such as the European Union tell a British Government to let nature take its course when so many British Citizens might suffer the tragedy that is happening to them NOW?
        Here’s one for instance. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32007L0060:EN:NOT

    • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

      That’s probably at least 90% of them.

    • Ringstone

      Smith isn’t the CEO, he is the non executive Chairman – picking up his failed politician’s sinecure pension for a three day week, the sort of grubby arrangement at our expense to which we are sadly now anesthetized to.
      On the other hand the Chief Executive of the Environment agency is a bloke called Paul Leinster who has a PhD in Environmental Engineering [Imperial], which should answer your implied question about where the expertise and clout is. Now why we haven’t heard from or about him is a separate and interesting question, having also been Director of Operations previously he’s presumably being left well alone on the basis he knows where the bodies are buried. #ineptocracy

  • Tom M

    When I look at Lord Smith on the television he seems to look like and talk like Chris Patten. With the same effect on my temper.

    • global city

      with his face plastic, but badly formed in a too large a mould…weird looking sod!

      • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

        The ones like Smith all look like toads!

        And the ones like Bliar and Lord Manglebum of Boys all look like the snakes they really are.

        Every single one of them looks like some sort of reptile.

        • matism

          Let’s not be so harsh on reptiles. Your neighbors across the Channel loves them some frogs…

          • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

            Heh, heh – we’re not so keen on Frogs on this side of the channel.

          • matism

            ??? But then why are so many of them running your government? From BOTH parties!

          • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

            Our three main political parties are now virtually all the same and more and more people are waking up to that fact.

            All of them EUrophiles, all of them fully implementing EU/Common Purpose/Bilderberg/NWO diktats for their place on the EU gravy train and all of them traitors to their country…… I hate them with a passion.

            It’s the same in America with the Democrats and Republicans but having said that, although Dubya’s administration was awful, the Obama administration is without a doubt THE most dangerous administration the American people have ever had to face.

          • matism

            I agree, I understood, and was just having some fun.

          • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

            Ah, right – I wasn’t sure.

          • scotsphil

            Aren’t we all cosy now

          • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

            P**s off and mind your own business, Lefty.

          • scotsphil

            Oh sorry am I intruding? I’ll get off and leave you two bumchums to your private tete a tete

          • http://www.wwwbarkingspider.com/ Barking Spider

            Typical Lefty – obsessed with men’s bottoms.

            And it’s “tête à tête”, by the way.

          • scotsphil

            Cos you are all Anglo supremacist xenophobes

    • rtj1211

      Go read old Miliband’s peroration at the Grauniad today – it flipped my lid so much I wrote him one of the most lucid rants I’ve ever delivered. I’m sure it’s water off a duck’s back to him. He probably thinks that it signifies he’s winning, since the whole aim of politicians is to needle and inflame and succeeding in that means you’ve won.

      Bugger the country, after all……

      • scotsphil

        Too late Gideon and the Marshmallow Macaroon have already done that

  • drydamol1

    BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS – WHAT DO THIS GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY DO – APART FROM
    LIE

    The Right Honourable Tory Toffs think we are that gullible
    and do not read in between the Propaganda Lines to appreciate what really is
    going off . Plebgate was a minor incident blown out of all proportion because
    of an accumulation of mistrust and lack of faith between the Government and the
    Ordinary Copper .A similar situation happened under Labour when Prison Officers
    wanted the right to strike .The affair has culminated in an Officer being jailed
    for a year for ’ Lying’ .

    Unfair redundancies and new working conditions have been thrust upon
    our Service Personal by the Government and Limiting Council Resources have meant many
    Fire Stations have amalgamated at local level and have to travel further to an
    incident .

    The Risk to Lives is of no consequence to this Pathological
    Regime when they can oversee the Deaths of over 10,000 of our most vulnerably
    challenged recipients of Benefits by Atos .

    Whomever you vote for it is an Undeniable Fact that we
    are Governed by Deceitful Liars in the Treasury ,Justice ,DWP and by the PM .

    What about the Floods – Too Little Too Late it took
    Charles to be seen and heard in Public stating it “took a disaster before the
    Government acted “and then very slowly having known the consequences for years
    .

    Time & Motion in the Police Force started under
    Thatcher and has meant that our Services have become progressively
    overstretched over time .The situation today is defended by Lies because of Austerity
    Measures .Osborne has become accustomed to being totally disliked and
    distrusted and therefore has taken some of the burden from the Liar ID Smith who
    at present is trying to scramble out of the hole he has dug for himself.

    http://brokenbritishpolitics.simplesite.com

  • drydamol1

    BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS – WHAT DO THIS GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY DO – APART FROM
    LIE

    The Right Honourable Tory Toffs think we are that
    gullible and do not read in between the Propaganda Lines to appreciate what
    really is going off . Plebgate was a minor incident blown out of all proportion
    because of an accumulation of mistrust and lack of faith between the Government
    and the Ordinary Copper .

    A similar situation happened under Labour when Prison
    Officers wanted the right to strike .The affair has culminated in an Officer
    being jailed for a year for ’ Lying’ .

    Unfair redundancies and
    new working conditions have been thrust upon our Service Personal by the
    Government and Limiting Council
    Resources have meant many Fire Stations have amalgamated at local level and
    have to travel further to an incident .

    The Risk to Lives is of no consequence to this Pathological
    Regime when they can oversee the Deaths of over 10,000 of our most vulnerably
    challenged recipients of Benefits by Atos .

    Whomever you vote for it is an Undeniable Fact that we
    are Governed by Deceitful Liars in the Treasury ,Justice ,DWP and by the PM .

    What about the Floods – Too Little Too Late it took
    Charles to be seen and heard in Public stating it “took a disaster before the
    Government acted “and then very slowly having known the consequences for years
    .

    Time & Motion in the Police Force started under
    Thatcher and has meant that our Services have become progressively
    overstretched over time .The situation today is defended by Lies because of
    Austerity Measures .Osborne has become accustomed to being totally disliked and
    distrusted and therefore has taken some of the burden from the Liar ID Smith who
    at present is trying to scramble out of the hole he has dug for himself.

    http://brokenbritishpolitics.simplesite.com

    • Ridcully

      So good you had to post it twice huh?

      • scotsphil

        Verily was it enough for you? Did you get it second time around?

  • Emma Giffard

    In 1919 around 30% of the Levels went underwater in a state of flood – nothing to do with a lack of dredging. Now, it’s only 10%. The main difference is successive governments allowing building to take place on vulnerable floodplains. People’s blindness to climate change and the inevitable effects is shocking. In Holland, people seem to have their heads screwed on about the fact that they will eventually have to let the sea reclaim most of their country in the face of international inaction against climate change and rising sea levels. The EA have finite resources, as does the world. The idea that the Somerset Levels and the communities upon them will continue to be viable into the long and distant future is laughable.

    • braqueish

      So tell us nincompoops how much worse flooding in 1919 means that the current flooding is due to “climate change”. Judging from your attitude you are probably sufficiently young to have not experienced any global warming during your lifetime. Also, as is common with your ilk, your contempt for people, their livelihoods and suffering, far outweigh your zeal for saving the “planet” of your overheated imagination.

      Presumably you’d also like to see the other parts of this country which aren’t recovered wetlands return to dense deciduous forest? Who would then grow your food, provide staffing and pharmaceuticals for the hospital when you or your children are sick, provide electricity and complex manufacturing processes so you can sit in your warm and well-lit home typing earnest sophistry onto your computer?

      Sheer hypocrisy.

      • Emma Giffard

        I live in Somerset on a hill overlooking the vast lakes that are levels. I know plenty of people who are being affected by it and I feel deeply sorry for those who have been flooded but I still think society, and it seems you as well, have heads in the sand about how much our world is going to change in the near and distant future.
        I do hold my hands up to having been clumsy in my phrasing, I was rushed when I wrote the comment – I was not suggesting that the dredging and climate change are connected. I’m so bloody annoyed with hearing the Environment Agency get all the blame. The point I was making was that in 1919 when the flooding was much, much worse (and no, this is not evidence against climate change in the here and now), there were a lot less houses down there, so less people were flooded. Why do we build on flood plains? It’s crazy. And even if the EA had been dredging their hearts out it would still be awful and flooded down there.
        It is, as always, so much more complicated than the politicians or the media make it seem. We’ve put huge swathes of our country under hardstanding, whether supermarket carparks or patios. Successive Governments have pursued policies of clearing trees and improving grassland on upland hill farms. We’ve drained bogs, and extracted thousands of tonnes of peat from all around places like the levels. All these things increase the volume and speed of run-off, all at a time when rainfall levels are going through the roof. The capacity of the rivers, even if they were dredged and operating at double capacity, is absolutely tiny in comparison to the capacity of the floodplain. There would be a fraction less flooding on the levels. But if the rivers and channels were running at greater capacity they would simply put the large urban areas of Taunton and Bridgwater downstream at increased risk of flooding.
        Food security going into the future puts the fear into me. But what happens when you weigh up the food that this acreage is able to produce against the energy that constant pumping and dredging requires to keep it from flooding? Are we going to spend hundreds of millions – possibly much, much more than that in the long term – and burn hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel protecting a relatively small area of pastureland that will be below sea level? I suspect that in the long term the homes on the levels, now effectively unsaleable, will have to be compulsory purchased by the Government and the area will be left to be reclaimed by the sea. The numbers on benefits vs costs for flood defence will not add up. What I am saying is that climate change is a fact, even if you are a member of that flat-earth society that denies man’s contribution to it. We are going to face difficult decisions going into the future, about how to feed a growing population on a shrinking planet.
        Extreme weather events are normal – ie, the 1919 floods on the levels. But look to what is happening in the rest of the world now; warmer seas producing fiercer storms, ie the Philippines. Unprecedented drought in Brazil, a state of emergency in Bolivia due to floods, wildfires raging in Australia, colossal blizzards in North America. It become normal to have the hottest, the driest, the wettest, the coldest on record, whether year or month, whether in the UK or elsewhere. The climate is getting more extreme.
        I do resent the personal slight and the implication that I am too young to have an opinion that counts – that you can infer anything from my age at all. I have studied climate change, I am a parent frightened for the future of my children, and I am old enough to know what I’m on about. But even if I was 18 years old my opinion would be just as valid – all the more so as any young people in this world now are facing a very, very difficult future and the decisions about where we put our resources now are going to have a big impact on that.

        • Braqueish

          Emma, I appreciate that you would take the time to reply comprehensively, thoughtfully and politely to my comment. I also apologise for my rather dismissive comment on your age. I was really just trying to emphasise the point that even climate scientists agree that there is a “hiatus” in global warming since 1998 which is difficult to explain if your belief is that Carbon Dioxide is the source of all our woes.

          I believe that you sincerely believe that CO2 — an industrial by-product — will cause untold misery to us all in the future. You use the demeaning phrase “flat-earth society” which tells me that you get most of your information on what’s happening from conventional “environmentalist” sources.

          You should be aware that some of us find the “consensus” unconvincing. Not because we are flat-earth knuckle-dragging Tories. I spent nearly thirty years in Public Health research. I’m ashamed to say that where there’s a “message” to be imparted, good at heart people will lie and fiddle so that their “research” is on-message. Climate science is painfully similar.

          The shock to me — a lifetime environmentalist — was that not only my own field in Public Health, but the environmental research literature was similarly compromised. There are two messages we’re all supposed to accept. One is that there are “too many people”. The other is that the resources are finite and so we will out-consume ourselves.

          Both these contentions are patently false. Firstly, as an optimist, I can say that more people means better innovation. Humans are geniuses at thinking up new solutions. The power block that powered your laptop ten years ago was ten times the size it is now. Secondly, the amount of fuel needed to run your car ten years ago was eight times what is needed now.

          As a (lapsed) Marxist I believe that industrialisation is an unparalleled good. Capitalism, less so. The deeply reactionary (but appealing) notion that there was a Tolkienesque “Merrie England” is just blatantly false. Unless you count horrendous perinatal mortality and adult morbidity similar to modern Somalia.

          The “solutions” to global warming are as destructive as the problem they seek to address. Wind turbines are built onto indestructible massive concrete blocks, They are massively killers of bats and rare raptors, and are enabled through extraction of rare earths — read the story of hydrochloric acid lake tailings.

          Biofuels are a joke. Substitute food grown for needy humans with maize to produce ethanol which damages engines, is less fuel efficient than petrol, or the destruction of millions of acres of rain forest to produce palm oil to create bio-diesel. Or how about clear-logging US woodland (with bulldozers) to provide wood chips for converted coal-fired power stations here in the uk to burn (renewable) fuel.

          The one thing that sceptics and warmists agree is that the computer models have no skill at projecting Regional differences. 5,000 years ago there is strong evidence that the temperature was far warmer than today. Tree pollen is visible upon the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Greenland was settled as a viable agricultural community. The history of Europe is defined by the expulsion of tribes from Scandinavia as the climate there became more hostile.

          Why would you assume that a couple of degrees of global warming would be “catastrophic”? Generally, frost is more destructive to life than warmth.

          I know that the pervasive memes are that there are “too many people” and that industrialisation has driven us towards catastrophe. I believe both views are both reactionary and wrong.

          • Emma Giffard

            Thank you Braqueish, for being considered and informed in your reply. My flat-earth comment was borne from frustration at climate change deniers who fail to make an attempt to understand the complex science. I do not have a rose-tinted vision of life in the past being better than now, and I don’t wish to give up the comforts of central heating or the internet. However I think humankind is living beyond its current means.
            I am genuinely grateful whenever I hear an optimistic voice in the fray, but I think it would be imprudent to rely on as yet untested or uninvented technologies which will dig us out of a potential hole. A two degree rise in global temperature won’t necessarily be catastrophic, although it will be for some, for example low-lying countries. Holland might be able to build themselves out of disaster but Bangladesh? Who will pay for it? Yes, they might celebrate in Greenland, but they will be drowning elsewhere. However, a six degree rise in temperature will be catastrophic. Even with a two degree rise we will likely see massive crop failures because of the increase in extreme weather, Although you are right, it may be that areas come into production, but where is the infrastructure to support that? It is easy to point out that there may be benefits in some areas without thinking about what that means in practical terms. Are you going to relocate the population of Bangladesh to Greenland?
            I think the hiatus in warming simply illustrates the point that the system is much more complex than we are able to fully understand. There are feedback cycles in both directions which are yet to be discovered. The earth has, in times long gone by, been both ice-free and completely shrouded in ice. We live in a relatively stable period, but the evidence does point towards the fact that we are destabilising it by our very own activities. There is a 30 year time lag on seeing the effects of greenhouse gases.
            If you went to a doctor, and they diagnosed you with a potentially fatal illness, and offered you medicine which might have short-term unpleasant side effects, most people would take it regardless. Even though you might fully recover from the illness without treatment. Well, the evidence points to the fact that man-made emissions might be driving us into a very difficult future. Possibly even the complete loss of this planet as a viable home for humankind, ie, a fatal illness.
            What is there to lose? In the long term we gain a sustainable source of energy which will be cheaper and less polluting. I agree, rare earth extraction is a dirty business. But I find it very hard to accept that the development of renewable technology is more polluting, damaging or frankly insane than, for example, tar sands extraction in Canada, where almost as much energy is used to extract the oil than is produced.
            I also agree that much of the focus has been misguided – biofuels being a good example. But there are good technologies out there and with the right investment and will, there are solutions out there. Algae offers a much more hopeful biofuel than corn-based ethanol, and would not involve taking land out of food production.
            Perhaps there are too many people. Perhaps not, if we are clever about the way we manage our resources. I am not against industrialisation, although I am an environmentalist who believes that it is prudent to share our planet with other species, with respect. Both so as not to disturb complex systems which we depend on; for example, bees for pollination. Or so that we can capitalise on those compounds in plants that might heal our illnesses or produce new technologies. But also because we are graced with a planet of greenery and life amongst a universe of dusty rocks. We are the sentient species. It is our responsibility to look after both our society and the natural world.

          • Braqueish

            The flooding problems in Bangladesh are more probably due to a combination of the land subsiding and poorly sited embankments than they are to do with eustatic (global warming) sea level rise. See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921818113002191 for some recent research. As the seas get warmer their volume increases leading to increased sea level. But there hasn’t been any measurable warming in the sea for a decade and a half. Most of the tide gauge measurements which show a higher sea level at particular points (e.g. Norfolk) are because the land is sinking. Satellite measurement of sea level doesn’t show anything much to be alarmed about.

            It’s easy to look at weather phenomena (floods, droughts, forest fires, etc) at any one time and see a pattern — if you’re looking for one. This is called confirmation bias, and is something that everyone, even scientists, are prone to. These days with 24/7 global news gathering we’re more aware than ever of these events and their tragic results.

            In my, flat-earth, view there has been an orchestrated attempt to roll back industrial society and argue for population control using the demon CO2 as a whipping boy. This is a bit odd since CO2 is essential for life. A small increase in the concentration of this gas (from 0.03% to 0.04% of the atmosphere) is undoubtably a product of industrial activity. It has also, undoubtably, led to a small increase in surface temperature.

            The alarm that this has engendered is based upon the theory that this will trigger a positive feedback loop in the atmosphere which will increase the amount of water vapour (a far more potent greenhouse gas) and trigger runaway warming. There is absolutely no evidence for this. In fact the current decadal “hiatus” in surface warming more or less disproves it.

            Most current species of plant evolved when CO2 was in far greater concentration than today. The small increase in CO2 we have currently is actively beneficial to plant life. That’s why market gardeners pump it into their polytunnels to enhance plant productivity. Plants exposed to higher CO2 use water more efficiently which might explain why the Sahel and other semi-desert areas are becoming greener.

            Most of the “evidence” for a disastrous effect of a couple of degrees of warming are based upon computer simulations of the climate interpreted at regional level. They do indeed show scary outcomes with increased desertification in some places and increased flooding in others. Computer models are judged by the “skillfullness” by which their simulations match the real world. Unfortunately, the current crop are known to be “unskillful” at regional level, and increasingly dubious at global level (none of them predicted the current plateau in temperature).

            The anxiety about the impact of climate change on wild species is also misplaced in my view. Again, all current plant and animal species survived a far greater climate change threat than is posited by current concerns. 10,000 years ago there was 3km of ice over where I’m now sitting. No doubt there will be again in the not too distant future.

            I genuinely believe that when the history of our time is written people will scratch their heads in disbelief as to how we allowed energy policy to become so distorted by such an unsubstantiated scare, and how environmentalism was turned so inside-out. I’ve no doubt we’ll innovate and adapt our way out of fossil fuel dependency. The Canadian oil sand nonsense tells you why. It is only economic if the price of oil is sky-high. But the human and environmental cost of current energy policy is a disgrace, and in my view based upon a chimera.

          • ButcombeMan

            Upstream removal of tree cover affects all river systems, including Bangladesh.
            We need to get on with re covering upland Britain in trees.

    • Steve

      So Emma the flooding was worse in the past. Before we go any further can I stop you there and ask you to consider what that means for your argument about climate change.

      • Emma Giffard

        Steve, please see my response above. The fact that there have been worse floods in the past does nothing to detract from the fact that the weather is becoming more extreme.

        • rtj1211

          How if it is ‘becoming more extreme’ are the effects of it less than in the past??

          The media tell you it’s becoming more extreme.

          Do the media know what they are talking about??

          It may well be more extreme than the 1990s, but it clearly isn’t more extreme than 1919.

          Just as the Great Lakes freezing this year is more extreme than since the 1970s, but it’s less extreme than in 1912 by all accounts.

          We don’t have a very good ability to understand extremes as a nation. 1962/3 was extremely extreme as a winter and that was 50 years ago. That was snow and cold, not rain and floods. But it was extremely extreme. 1976 was extreme, it being very hot and dry. People rather enjoyed that extreme if they weren’t farmers. December 1981 was extremely extreme due to cold.

          What is currently extreme is the 24/7 media circus which hypes everything up. Most people don’t know their history so they can’t know whether it really is truly historically unrivalled or whether it’s simply that we don’t have accurate records going back long enough.

          What I suggest you do is do research on the flooding years of the 1870s in Britain, because those are the analogous years to those you are experiencing now…….

  • Clive Mather

    This is very much a parable of modern (should that be “modern”?) Britain. Useful people, paid sensible wages,who know what they’re doing, are lorded over or booted out by half-baked nincompoops on obscene salaries who think they know it all. On the Levels, the people who actually did the dredging lost their jobs, whilst the likes of Baroness Infant of Old Scum were free to indulge their fantasies about turning a large chunk of Somerset into a wetland paradise. Chris Smith, in the same job now, thinks that you have to choose between flooding towns or flooding the countryside. This is perhaps the most idiotic false antithesis of the decade. If this really is the calibre of Britain’s ‘elite’ then we’re done for.
    The same pattern holds for organisations like the NHS. Doctors and nurses have to kowtow to glorious leaders who know little or nothing about the intricacies of medicine or patient care, but who have some sort of all-purpose managerial genius which makes them innately superior. As NHS whistleblowers know only too well, dissent is absolutely streng verboten. The Fueherprinzip is the only real ethical code.
    One gets the impression that in upper professional circles there has been a complete change of ethos in the last few decades. Instead of professional people serving the wider community in return for respect and modest (but above-average) salaries, the community now exists to provide professionals with lucrative employment and the political machinery for these individuals to inflict their ideological fantasies on everyone else. This corruption has spread into once-noble charities like the RSPCA, which seems to have become a quasi-Stasi outfit.

    • rtj1211

      Yep. It’s what causes ‘cognitive dissonance’ aka ‘how the f**k can I not go totally barmy at work?’ in so many decent people…..

  • Stuart Ben Smith

    Chris Smith, an ex-labour Mp, who lived in central London and knows F/A about land farming drainage, he got the job as an Asshole Injected Disease Sufferer, (AIDS) this infected poof has been useless at all his jobs, he got the job because of who he is not what he can do. These jobs should be appointed by meritocracy being able to do the job.
    Having a labourite doing such a job when they are against the country side is a disgrace.

    • scotsphil

      Your avatar is consonant with your ranting bile

      • Stuart Ben Smith

        Ranting bile????? well all you socialists do not like the truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Marks/1266358046 Paul Marks

    Very good leading article.

  • OrdinaryLife

    It is worse than you think as it is possible that work on the £31 Million Bird habitat has increased the flooding risk

    • Seldom Seen

      Wrong. The £31 million was spent on flood defences. The bird sanctuary was a by-product thereto and nothing to do with the money in question. However, as this is a fact, it is doubtless irrelevant because it weaksn the argument against the EA and we wouldn’t want that would we?

      • Dougie

        Sorry, you’re the one who is wrong.
        http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/31-million-for-the-birds/

        A small fraction of the £31m was spent on flood protection for Steart village and the rest on creating 400 hectares of wetland. I’m guessing they could have got a pretty good bird sanctuary for a mere £27m and spent the rest on dredging the Parrot – if they had wanted to.

        • Seldom Seen

          Not wrong on this one, Dougie old sport. Absolutely bang on in fact. Why? Because I have the inside track on this and you don’t. OK?

          • PanchoTaffy

            seriously, your argument is that “I know I’m right so there!” hahahaha

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Steadily, the Environment Agency has become a law unto itself … They now form a deeply politicised government in exile, with an incompetent but self-revering hierarchy that voters cannot dislodge.”

    • Seldom Seen

      Spot on, sir. Heaven forbid that the untrained journalists of the Spectator shoud let the facts get in the way of a good story…

      • rtj1211

        There’s no MSM organ in the UK where that isn’t the case. It’s why I spend so much time foaming at the mouth giving journalists the sort of rollicking that they are supposed to give politicians.

        They don’t seem to like it, so they ban me.

        Now if they just wrote stories based on truth rather than bollox, they’d have no problems with me.

        Strange that they can dish it out to politicians but no-one can dish it out to them, isn’t it?

  • Sir_Hugo_Baskerville

    Sky News doing their bit for the left with the odious Murnaghan giving uninterrupted airtime for Hilary Benn to defend giving aid to nuclear states rather than our own people, and for the Met Office to blame it all on “climate change” – meaning mankind.

    • Steve

      The clue as to why we pay these countries protection money is in the phrase ‘nuclear states’.

  • matism

    I wonder how quickly things would change for the better were Baroness Young to be found swinging from a tree branch by her neck, doing the Mussolini dance? Or do you have a BETTER way to celebrate treason against your countrymen?

  • Lady Magdalene

    Environmental Policy is an EU (in)Competence.

    DEFRA takes its Orders from Brussels. So does the Environment Agency.

    The EU is responsible for this catastrophe. The EA was following Orders when it carried out a policy of neglecting drainage in the Somerset Levels, in order – deliberately – to cause flooding.

    Dr North explains: http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

    The Spectator needs to get some proper investigative journalists. If they can’t even recognise that the EU controls Environmental Policies in the UK, they shouldn’t call themselves journalists.

    • Seldom Seen

      Sadly, proper journalists don’t exist any more. What happens these days is as follows: spotty youth goes to Oxbridge, gets a reasonable degree and assumes that world domination is theirs for the taking. Then they have a word with someone who knows someone and bingo! They’re instantly a journalist. No training or life experience necessary because, having been to Oxbridge, they are already fully qualified to do any job going. That comes with the degree. Some of them wash up at the Spectator where the cult of the ‘columnist’ is at its most pernicious. Marshalling the facts and putting both sides of the story are two irrelevancies because the ‘column’ is everything and nothing must get in the way of their opinions because they’re always right (having been to Oxbridge). I doubt Iain Macleod or Nigel Lawson would have allowed such sloppy journalism to exist when they edited this publication

      • rtj1211

        IN order to actually marshal the ‘facts’ you have to be able to see through the spin. That’s quite hard unless you have experience of the subject matter. The things I know a lot about (biosciences, venture capital, mountaineering, ski-ing, the weather, education) tell me that most of what you read in the papers is drivel.

        Most journalists say: ‘Professor so and so says so so it’s true’. I’ve worked with dozens of Professors and I found a significant percentage over-played their hands to an extent that 2 hrs of rudimentary due dili back in the office saw me demolish their claims to dust.

        I’ve spent years in the mountains, so I know what mountain weather is about, where it comes from and what the effects of it are. I’ve seen Scotland covered in snow to sea level and have its rivers frozen, I’ve seen no snow on Ben Nevis in January, I’ve seen Glencoe ski resort buried under snow in March and I know the difference between air temperature and wind chill. I’ve read more bullshit about climate than I’ve had hot dinners and 99% of journalists writing about it would perjure themselves in court due to ignorance.

        I’ve read more bullshit from journalists about the next ‘cure for cancer’ than you’d care to know about. They can’t distinguish between early research which identifies a protein which may be a new drug target which may or may not work for particular cancers in about 15 years once all the clinical trials have been done and a new treatment licensed for use on patients across the world. I can, because I worked as a cancer researcher for a decade.

        You need to understand that the time to become a journalist is in your 40s when you’ve seen the world go through a whole economic cycle.

        Nobody should be a journalist in their 20s. They’ve not mastered anything so they end up playing pathetic power games to cover up their own ignorance.

    • ButcombeMan

      Can the Spectator afford Investigative reptiles?.

      I think not. Hardly any journal can.

      Investigation takes time. It needs a Booker or a Melanie Phillips to dig for uncomfortable facts. The Speccie did not appreciate Phillips enough and presumably cannot afford Booker (though a recent anonymous editorial.had the smell of either plagiarism or Booker’s own work, about it).

      Far easier to use a youngster to slide out a provocative comment or two then leave the readership to gradually provide the true facts. That seems to be the situation here .

      It works after a fashion.

  • bengeo

    11:33 AM, FRI 03 JAN 2014

    More money ‘being spent on flooding than ever before’

    Responding to reports the Environment Agency is to shed 15% of its workforce to save money, a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said more money is being spent on tackling the risk of flooding than ever before.

    2:34 PM, FRI 03 JAN 2014

    Environment Sec: DEFRA ‘has to make efficiencies’

    The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has admitted his department “has had to make efficiencies” after the Environment Agency confirmed that it is making 1,550 redundancies, but said that frontline services will be protected.

    10:27 AM, SAT 04 JAN 2014

    Environment Agency job cuts ‘absolutely appalling’

    Mary Dhonau, chairwoman of the Flood Protection Association, has said she is “absolutely appalled” at the news of job losses at the Environment Agency.

    She told BBC Breakfast that the jobs were necessary, adding: “In this climate, and flooding is such a regular occurrence, it really is a no-brainer.”

    Yesterday, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said front-line flood defences would be protected after the agency’s chief executive Paul Leinster said risk maintenance would be “impacted” and work on flood warnings would “have to be resized”.

  • BoiledCabbage

    What sh!ts these Left-wing people like Smith !

  • bengeo

    Mary Dhonau said on TV this morning, that the result of Eric Pickles intervention on TV at the weekend has led to Environmental Workers in the front line, suffering verbal abuse from the general public.

    • Dougie

      Who is Mary Dhonau?

      • bengeo

        Mary Dhonau, chairwoman of the Flood Protection Association.

      • bengeo

        Mary Dhonau is the chairwoman of the Flood Protection Association.

    • teledaft

      Let’s hope Pickles disgraceful behaviour will result in some physical abuse being directed at him.As he has said in the past goverment needs to trim the fat

      • Baron

        and that’s the Full Monty of you wit, is it, teledaft?

        • scotsphil

          Look at your own posts Boring

  • Andrew Saint

    What else do you expect of a gay, Metropolitan Labour-luvvie?

    • Steve

      He looks like a character from Bo Selecta.

      • scotsphil

        And tell us who Bunter Pickles looks like

    • teledaft

      Your post is offensive,but what I have come to expect from spectator readers.

      • Baron

        Tell us something, teledaft, have you thought long to come up with a blogging name that ends with ‘daft’?

        • scotsphil

          But not so pretentious as “Baron” and only two letters difference from “boring”

  • Seth_the_pig_farmer

    Remember the old Green Goddess fire engines? They weren’t meant to replace the civilian red engines but to supplement them with the primary role of pumping water. The were in fact just a very big pump on the back of a standard truck, and carried very little fire fighting equipment.

    Why? Because it was realised after WW2 that one of the main limitations on fighting fires was the lack of water supply from damaged water mains, and that this would be much worse after a nuclear attack. Over 5000 Green Goddess were produced so that they could work in relay to shift vast quantities of water.

    Each engine could shift over 5 tonnes of water a minute and I imagine that they would have been pretty useful in the current situation.

    Nearly 1000 were available for service in 2004

    Unfortunately they were then sold.

    I guess if you cancel your preventative maintenance and your insurance policy you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

    Thanks Labour!

  • Dogzzz

    “Steadily, the Environment Agency has become a law unto itself. The idea
    behind its creation was to allow it to operate free from political
    interference.”

    This more accurately should read,

    “Steadily, the Environment Agency has become a law unto itself. The idea
    behind its creation was to allow it to operate free from political
    interference from Westminster as it implements EU directives on everything from flooding to wildlife protection.”

    There fixed that for you.

    The one term conspicuous by its absense in the whole article, is “the EU.”

    Not one mention of the EU directives which both labour and tory governments implemented via the Environment Agency. The Somerset Levels were left to flood on purpose. This was not inpetitude, it was deliberate wilful neglect. It was deliberate policy. Chris Smith should not resign for incompetence, when he was doing exactly what EU and the Environment agency and Government policy dictated. He should resign, for obeying such destructive orders.

    It is high time that the mainstream media admitted it. The EU policy was to deliberately flood the Somerset Levels. The details are listed at the following very well researched blog.

    http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

  • Peter Stroud

    The last sentence of this piece, gives the only sensible answer to the problems of the Environment Agency. Dismantle it ASAP.

  • Reform_the_NHS

    This story involves the same Baroness Young who oversaw the debacle of the Care Quality Commission….

  • Julian Thurbin

    This is what happens when you stuff quangos with Labour apparatchiks. Chris Smith probably thinks the Somerset Levels is a poem by Wordsworth

  • gelert

    Socialists don’t do the honourable thing.

    Compare and contrast Harper’s resignation with that of Baroness Scotland.

    • scotsphil

      No they should take lessons from Jeffrey Archliar and the “fragrant” lady Mary

      • gelert

        Excellent example. Archer resigned three times.

        MP 1974

        Deputy Chairman Conservative Party 1986

        London Mayoral Candidate 1999

        Does this count as a triple whammy ?

  • Whitestones

    Smith, as part of the Metropolitan Marxist Mafia, was given this job as a sinecure. It was nothing more than a reward for services to the party and no one will be surprised to discover he has never held a position outside of academia and politics.

  • teledaft

    It beggars belief that people commenting here cannot see that this goverment has spent the last week trying to shift the blame to anyone they can.Cameron,Patterson,pickles are a disgrace

    • pdhan

      Most people on here are about 88 and both deaf & blind so I wouldn’t bet on anyone seeing anything past their own boring old prejudices.

      • teledaft

        Pickles in parliament today was a joke,he talks in constant doublespeak and knows no shame and a shows no contrition.Backbenchers did their best to pin the blame on the EA and the last labour government.This is going to comeback and bite Pickles on his rather well fed derriere.

    • rtj1211

      I think the truth is that this started 20 years ago so New Labour will have much to answer for in that regard……….

      • teledaft

        So how does that take away from the fact,Cameron,pickles have spent the last week playing the blame game.

    • Baron

      You are so right, teledaft, why don’t you begin a campaign to give the Lord a reward, better still the Nobel Prize. God was supposed to engineer the biblical flood, the one you so admire managed to preside over the flooding of Somerset, so far. Not a bad start, ha?

  • Penfold

    When was the last time that an incompetent and useless ex-politico stood down from a job that he/she was patently unfit for?
    Hmm.
    Never…?
    Smith probably has a very woolly employment contract that provides for a lotto payout in the event of being sacked or standing down. Inevitably with government there is probably no failure to perform clausing, which is the excuse to sack without compensatory payment.
    Even Sharon Shoesmith, remember her, got a pay off after court action, as proper procedures were not followed.
    Smith will survive, step down at the end of term, to the usual whinging from the left about being an unnecessary scapegoat for Tory policy.
    Time for wholesale changes. we should adopt the American habit of putting political placemen at the head of every government department to ensure that the new policies are followed. Dave needs to do this with every Department, Quango, Agency,

    and any other bodies.

  • Graeme S

    The only qualifications Lord Snow has is the fact that he is an uphill gardener and a mate of all the other Westminster uphill gardener’s. This troughing and incompetence rite large.

    • teledaft

      wtf is that suposed to mean,you homophobic bigot

      • Graeme S

        you miss the point … I don’t care if he is actually Homosexual. I do care that it appears it was his only qualification … He is a deplorable Labour placeman, he mixed a cabal of useless jokers….. who as it happens happened to be Homosexual.

        • teledaft

          Your post clearly states the only reason he got his post is that he is gay and if you don’t care that he is gay why mention it.I say it again ,you sir are a homohomophobic bigot

          • scotsphil

            Yes he is a homophobic bigot but looking at his choice of avatar he has a large dose of denial

        • Baron

          The daft here’s right, give the man a break, Graeme S, he only puts in a couple of days a week for the EA, gets a meagre £110,000 for it.

  • pdhan

    “The Environment Agency put £400,000 on the table to help with [dredging] – the maximum amount the Treasury rules allowed us to do.” – Chris Smith in the Guardian today.

    But this is of course the Spectator so let’s not make any facts get in the way of our cheap and deceitful potshots at anything Labour or Environmental Agency.

    • teledaft

      I being to realise the spectator is read by bigots and the willfully ignorant who would not accept the truth unless they can pin it on the EU,immigrants or the last labour government

      • Baron

        But, teledaft, the fact remains it is usually the culprits you name who are to blame.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      The rivers Parrett and Tone have not been dredged for 16 years,. That is a policy decision not a budgetary one. Put in place by a Labour government and carried out by a pair of socialist apparatchiks.

  • teledaft

    I cannot believe Cameron has appealed for politicians to stop bickering and sniping.So the governments decision to launch a campaign of blame shifting and diversion tactics from the outset has now backfired he wants everyone to stop.

  • Emma Giffard

    I live in Somerset on a hill overlooking the vast lakes that are levels. I know plenty of people who are being affected by it and I feel deeply sorry for those who have been flooded but I still think society has its head in the sand about how much our world is going to change in the near and distant future.
    I’m so bloody annoyed with hearing the Environment Agency get all the blame. In 1919 30% of the levels went underwater in a state of flood, as compared to 10% now (and no, this is not evidence against climate change in the here and now). The difference – there were a lot less houses down there, so less people were flooded. Why do we build on flood plains? It’s crazy. And even if the EA had been dredging their hearts out it would still be underwater down there.
    It is, as always, so much more complicated than the politicians or the media make it seem. We’ve put huge swathes of our country under hardstanding, whether supermarket carparks or patios. Successive Governments have pursued policies of clearing trees and improving grassland on upland hill farms. We’ve drained bogs, and extracted thousands of tonnes of peat from all around places like the levels. All these things increase the volume and speed of run-off, all at a time when rainfall levels are going through the roof. The capacity of the rivers, even if they were dredged and operating at double capacity, is absolutely tiny in comparison to the capacity of the floodplain. There would be a fraction less flooding on the levels. But if the rivers and channels were running at greater capacity they would simply put the large urban areas of Taunton and Bridgwater downstream at increased risk of flooding.
    It’s much easier for a politician to blurt out a soundbite about dredging than to explore the complex relationship between the way we manage the land in different areas.
    Food security going into the future puts the fear into me. But what happens when you weigh up the food that this acreage is able to produce against the energy that constant pumping and dredging requires to keep it from flooding? Are we going to spend hundreds of millions – possibly much, much more than that in the long term – and burn hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel protecting a relatively small area of pastureland that will be below sea level? I suspect that in the long term the homes on the levels, now effectively unsaleable, will have to be compulsory purchased by the Government and the area will be left to be reclaimed by the sea. The numbers about benefits vs costs for flood defence will not add up.
    Climate change is a fact, even if you are a member of that flat-earth society that denies man’s contribution to it. We are going to face difficult decisions going into the future, about how to feed a growing population on a shrinking planet.
    Extreme weather events are normal – ie, the 1919 floods on the levels. But look to what is happening in the rest of the world now; warmer seas producing fiercer storms, ie the Philippines. Unprecedented drought in Brazil, a state of emergency in Bolivia due to floods, wildfires raging in Australia, colossal blizzards in North America. It become normal to have the hottest, the driest, the wettest, the coldest on record, whether year or month, whether in the UK or elsewhere. The climate is getting more extreme.
    Sadly, dredging is not going to solve anyone’s problems.

    • rtj1211

      So how did farming succeed for 300 years up to now then, given that flooding has been a regular feature of the area??

      • Emma Giffard

        After the 1919 floods (which was inundation by seawater) the land was poisoned and unusable for 7 years.

    • Baron

      Dredging may not solve it all, but it would make it better, Emma, as it has done in the past.

      • Emma Giffard

        Possibly, possibly not. There is a great deal more urbanisation than there was in the past. Carrying water faster past the levels may just threaten downstream areas such as Taunton and Bridgwater.

    • MrJones

      “In 1919 30% of the levels went underwater in a state of flood, as compared to 10% now (and no, this is not evidence against climate change in the here and now). ”

      Yes it is.

      • Emma Giffard

        Wow, looks like another member of the Flat Earth Society has something to say. Your understanding of the mechanics of the climate are very limited, Mr Jones.

      • Daidragon

        Keep burying your head in the flooded sand.

    • MrJones

      “The capacity of the rivers, even if they were dredged and operating at double capacity”

      If they were operating at double capacity the water would be draining twice as fast.

      You’re a perfect example of the problem. Like the EA you don’t *want* it fixed.

      • Emma Giffard

        Why on earth wouldn’t I want to see things improve? My point is that it has been drastically oversimplified. If a river can carry 2% of the capacity of the floodplain and you dredge it so it can carry 4%, then you have record breaking rainfall, you’re still going to have to use almost as much capacity of the floodplain.

  • renamedrisk

    Never mind; the UK can afford to spend £16 billion a year on new weapons, it can afford disastrously costly and pointless foreign military adventures. Governments of every complexion have recklessly and routinely squandered vast amounts of money. The financial incontinence of the political classes has caused immense harm to the UK. But nobody – including the Spectator – seems to think it’s worthy of comment.

  • Baron

    He shouldn’t resign, he should be sacked, banned for life from any other cushy job funded by public money.

    • teledaft

      So why hasn’ t he been sacked?

  • bengeo

    The prime minister, who returned to the flooded West Country on Monday, was said to be exasperated by the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, who attacked the competence of the Environment Agency on Sunday and apologised for the policy decisions taken by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who is recuperating from eye surgery.

  • Daidragon

    What exactly is Smith supposed to do about the weather? The EA implements govt policy, not the other way round. These floods are the beginning of the reality of living through climate change. Sea levels are rising. Weather is becoming more extreme. Houses built on flood plains will be worthless soon. We have an idiot denier for an Environment minister and a party in power that thinks green issues are hippy lefty talk. Tory party needs to be made obsolete after the next GE. They don’t belong in this century.

    • MrJones

      “What exactly is Smith supposed to do about the weather?”

      Mitigate it by draining water away faster by having fully maintained drainage ditches and dredged rivers – like it always was in the past before environmentalist moles inside the quangos decided they wanted large chunks of land to go back to wilderness.

      • Emma Giffard

        Well said Daidragon.

      • Daidragon

        If you’d read any serious science instead of this site you’d know that dredging the levels would have zero impact. There’s just too much water falling on land that has been denuded (by farmers) of it’s ability to absorb the rainfall. I’m amazed at Tory complacency and denial over an issue which is going to hit thier rural supporter base far harder than anyone else.

    • cbr100rr

      Climate change?….please do foxtrot….dangerous idiot

  • dessie100

    There is nothing like the truth to get in the way of a good story. Some facts for digestion.
    Since 2010 the EA has seen 26% of its budgets cuts despite knowledge in Government that money spent on flood protection is well spent saving £8 for every £1 used. The present Government was pennywise and pound foolish and axed hundreds of schemes on coming into office . In 2012 severe flooding made the Government realise the error of their ways and they re-instigated the capital sums as plannedpreviously, but the 2 year delay has meant work not being done that should have been completed.
    The Govt’s own scientific advisors have made it clear that climate change will lead to a quadrupling of homes at risk and so more spending not less is required simply to stand still. It is no coincidence that the current Sec of State OP is a well known climate change sceptic who has paired to the bone money available to prepare for the adverse impacts from climate change.
    While the Government has sustained capital spending and ring fenced it, it has cut back the amounts available for revenue spending and tightened the rules around its use. If you want to know why dredging has not taken place to the extent required, ask HM Treasury not the EA.
    The EA employ over 11000 staff and flood management is but one function. Hunderds of staff who have nothing to do with flood response are working day and night to alleviate the problem. They are being shipped down to Somerset from all parts of the Country to help out. The numbers employed will soon fall to just above 9000 and since 2010 25% of the workforce will have exited. This includes many front line operatives with huge experience and knowledge of local areas going back to the 1950’s.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Why would a socialist plutocrat resign when his contract has another five months to run at £8,083.33 a month plus expenses?

  • Lena Helena

    What TF is that Ponce Charles doing? Much better to let the nation read your interfering political lobbying letters to government ministers so that we can really judge you.

  • gvanderleun

    Get back to us after somebody flosses Baroness Young of Old Scone with a chain saw. Thanks.

  • Paul Vickers

    No he should NOT resign.
    He should be summarily dismissed – with full loss of pension rights.
    And banned from any further payments from the public purse.

    Gross incompetence and criminal negligence, together with a complete absence of qualifications for the job (just like the Crystal Meth(odist) Minister who headed the Co-op Bank).

    Cronyism is toxic, a national disgrace – and a gift to UKIP

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