Jeremy Corbyn has defended his decision to wait five days to visit flood-hit areas of northern England, saying he "didn't want to get in the way" at a "critical time" for the emergency services.
The Labour leader was pursued by a large entourage of photographers and reporters as he met angry flood victims in York, who told him they felt "abandoned" by the Government, environmental authorities and local council.
He told a crowd of local residents hit by the floods that they had "every right to be angry" but praised Environment Agency staff for their "superhuman efforts" to protect homes and businesses from the floods.
Instead he turned his ire on the Government, telling them to look again at the cuts it has imposed on the agency and called on David Cameron to increase spending on flood defences.
Ministers have faced criticism for failing to properly fund flood defences in cities that were hit by Storm Frank over the Christmas period and earlier in the day Oxford professor Simon Wren-Lewis accused the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of increasing the "damage and human misery" caused by the floods.
Figures released by the House of Commons library earlier this week showed that the Government had decreased spending on flood defences by 20 per cent since Mr Cameron came to power in 2010, while local authorities in York came under fire after it emerged that the River Foss flood barrier was left open.
Asked why he had only decided to visit on Thursday - five days after the city was first hit by the extreme weather, Mr Corbyn replied: "I didn't want to get in the way of people doing an emergency job at a highly critical time.
"I think to turn up in the midst of all that is distracting engineers."
In Pictures: Floods hit the UK
In Pictures: Floods hit the UK
1/17 Floods hit the UK
Members of Cleveland Mountain Rescue and soldiers from 2 Battalion The Duke of Lancasters Regiment evacuating people from the Queens Hotel in York city centre as the River Ouse floods on December 27, 2015
2/17 Floods hit the UK
Teams in Whalley evacuate villagers from their homes
3/17 Floods hit the UK
A resident of Glenridding, which flooded for the third time this month, surveys the damage
4/17 Floods hit the UK
The River Ouse, York, has burst its banks
5/17 Floods hit the UK
A soldier from the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s regiment helps to sure up flood defences in Appleby, Cumbria, one of the areas worst affected by the floods
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Experts believe the cost of clearing up the most recent flooding could exceed £50m (PA)
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Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in York
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A police helicopter photographed the extent of the flooding in York on 27 December.
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Flooding at Clifford's Tower in York on 27 December
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Flooding along York's Inner Ring Road on 27 December
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Water runs out of the Lowther pub in York on 27 December after the River Ouse bursts its banks in York city centre.
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Flooded streets in Dumfries, Scotland on 30 December
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A car left submerged in floodwater in Newton Stewart, Scotland
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Staff at the Worlds End bar in Dumfries Scotland desperately try to pump floodwater out of the building
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A man stands in the doorway of his cottage in the flooded town of Straiton in Scotland
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Flooding in the village of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland
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Man wades through floodwater outside a fish and chip shop in Dumfries, Scotland
He was also asked what role Labour would play in combatting future flooding events. He replied saying they will pressurise the Government to fully fund the Environment Agency rather than cutting its budget to ensure adequate funding for flood defences.
Mr Corbyn raised eyebrows for breaking yet another tradition when he arrived in York wearing a pair of brown leather loafers - ignoring the customary wellies usually chosen by politicians visiting flood-hit areas.
He was praised by locals for visiting a council estate, rather than the "posh" streets where they said Mr Cameron had opted for when he visited on Monday.
Lee Moran, a 44-year-old local man who had been made homeless by the floods, told Mr Corbyn: "You are the first person to come up here. Mr (David) Cameron has been, he went to all the posh estates, he didn't come to see the council estates."
The Labour leader was also told by flood victim Azia Carlyle that one of her friends wanted to marry him, to which he replied: "Marry me? I'm already spoken for, I'm really sorry about that."
Mr Corbyn refused to criticise the Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley, who was in Barbados during the floods. The Labour leader defended his decision not to end his holiday early, saying it was the engineers on teh ground who were the ones dealing with the situation.Reuse content