‘Why are you actually here?’: Ed Miliband just latest political wally in wellies to tour flood-struck Britain

After politicians were dubbed 'flood tourists', David Cameron insisted he always tries to make sure his visits are 'for a purpose'

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Indy Politics

They are trying to look like they are at the forefront of the UK’s crisis response – but politicians visiting flood-hit areas seem only to be getting in the way.

Increasingly met with anger from local residents calling for soldiers rather than sound-bites, the likes of David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Philip Hammond and Nick Clegg have all been pictured donning wellies in recent days.

Yesterday morning the Defence Secretary, Mr Hammond, was ensnared live on TV by a furious resident of Wraysbury, Berkshire, who asked just what it was he could offer to do while there.

Apparently undeterred, the Labour leader, Mr Miliband, appeared no more than a few hours later on a trip to see victims of the flooding in Purley on Thames.

He was promptly confronted by Alok Sharma, the Conservative MP for Reading West, who asked: “Why are you actually here?”

While visiting Wraysbury later Mr Miliband said it was “a difficult decision for politicians whether to visit areas like this, but I feel people have been welcoming and I can take their concerns back to Westminster.”

In a press conference last night called to address the flood crisis that has hit southern Britain, the Prime Minister warned of disruption and property damage that will last for a “depressingly long period of time”.

And while he was invited to make no-doubt welcome pledges that “money is no object” in terms of spending on relief efforts, it was also put to Mr Cameron that he was better off leading action in Westminster than becoming the latest so-called political “flood tourist”.

“I always make sure my visits are for a purpose,” he said. “I try and get the balance right.”

The Prime Minister has cancelled a planned trip to the Middle East so that he can continue to “lead the national response” to the floods, and proclaimed that 1,600 soldiers had already been deployed - later corrected to 600.

According to reports in the Telegraph, when a journalist asked a resident of the Somerset Levels if it “meant anything” to them that the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was visiting, she replied: “No. Nothing whatsoever.”

Last week, the under-fire Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith made perhaps the most calamitous visit to the floods of all.

He received what was described as a “frosty reception” in Somerset, and after a subsequent Newsnight appearance an MP in the county launched a furious attack on the peer.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said he had signed a petition calling for Lord Smith to be sacked and asked: “How did he come across to you? Smug? Arrogant? Self-satisfied? Or all three?”