If blame is to be apportioned for the misery affecting water-stricken homes, it should be laid at the door of five decades of politicians: those who looked only as far as the next elections and did not have the courage to take necessary but costly measures to mitigate climate change – and adapt to the inevitable consequences – because they would not show immediate political benefits.
Back in the 1970s, ecologists were already warning about climate change. In those days they called it “global warming”, until it became clear that heating the atmosphere would disrupt the climate everywhere, causing “extreme weather events”.
This month, along with the floods in the UK, there has been a drought in California. These are two countries which, for decades, have been blocking strong international action on climate change. The US sabotages any global initiatives and the UK, which follows its “master”, does the same at European level.
Since the US is so keen on class actions, why don’t the washed-out residents of Somerset and Surrey follow their lead and seek compensation for decades of ineffectual government?
Dave Skinner, Tervuren, Belgium
Another day, another Cobra meeting. I wonder how many voters on the Somerset Levels voted to keep first-past-the-post in the PR referendum? Had voters in the West Country (or indeed nationwide) voted for a change they might find politicians take more notice.
Voters in this region are cursed with a lack of marginal seats. Those who troop faithfully to support the Tory status quo do themselves no favours. There are no incentives to listen to voters, as safe seat after safe seat swells the green benches and those they elect don’t have to work too hard fighting for their constituents. There’s a lot of sound and fury, of course, and some feisty quango-bashing, but very little success in prising money away from the South-east.
The same applies to safe Labour seats in their heartlands, where they too don’t have to work too hard to keep these seats and similarly take their electorate for granted.
If there was a chance of every vote counting it would be easier to get rid of many of these time-servers, many of whom barely darken the doors of their constituency offices except once every five years or so, being far too occupied in the City, at the Inns of Court, or running their own businesses in constituents’ time.
Paul Jenkins, Abbotskerswell, Devon
A government that promotes austerity measures and claims that Big Society volunteers and the private sector will pick up what the public service can no longer do was always likely to end in a bad place, and now it has.
While people in a number of areas are suffering from flooding, it is clear that cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget and staffing have made a difficult situation worse.
No doubt some volunteers are helping in flood work, but there are limits. Dredging rivers and saving life and limb are jobs for professionals, and they are to be found in the public sector. After weeks of flooding in Somerset, there has been no evidence of volunteer or private sector dredging operations. Rather, it is the Army who are called into help.
It is probably too much to hope that the ideologues of the present government will take the point, but one suspects that voters will.
Keith Flett, London N17
Why is so much annoyance and frustration being directed towards the Government and the Environment Agency about the reaction to homes being flooded?
The first response to the appalling situation is the responsibility of local authorities, in the shape of their general workforce, the police and Fire and Rescue. If sandbags are not being provided, road closures are not being properly managed, or people are not being helped to deal with flooding or evacuate their property, it is their local authority which is at “fault”.
As demonstrated several weeks ago in Somerset, when the local authority (and in particular the so-called “gold commander”) can see that the situation under their management is likely to be so serious that they require externally provided assistance, they can declare a “major incident” and central government resources (such as those of HM Forces) can be called on.
If residents and those marvellous volunteers in affected local areas feel that they are not being properly served then they really should direct their grievances elsewhere. Sometimes the easy route of blaming government for everything is just plain wrong.
Laurence Williams, South Cockerington, Lincolnshire
If you need something done about flooding, or, indeed, anything else of importance, it would appear that you have a choice of two routes. One, ask the Prince of Wales to visit you, or, two, threaten the Home Counties.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Nothing democratic about EU election
Even Nick Clegg (Comment, 11 November), the most committed of Europhiles, puts forward no reason to vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections except to reduce Ukip’s share of the vote.
He presumably knows that were we to elect 73 Lib Dem MEPs or 73 Ukip or Conservative or Labour MEPs, it would not make any difference to the laws that are passed in Europe and the regulations that affect us. This is the reason some of us have doubts about the European project.
It isn’t, as Nick Clegg suggests, that we are turning our back on the world. It is that Nick, by his call for supporters of the EU to vote for his party, confirms that Euro elections are nothing more than a grand opinion poll of the small number of people who bother to vote in them. This lack of democracy is more important than his carefully worded scaremongering about putting jobs and investment in Britain “at risk”.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
The best ways to give up smoking
The article “New tools to break nicotine addiction” (Addiction special report, 5 February) implies that electronic cigarettes are supported by guidance from NICE. For the time being, they are not.
Such products for replacing nicotine need to be licensed by the medicines safety body, the MHRA, before we can recommend them. It’s likely that e-cigarettes may be less harmful than smoking; but if people need support to quit they should use patches, gum, spray or any of the other approved therapies which we know are safe, effective and quality-assured.
Professor Michael P Kelly, Director of the NICE Centre for Public Health, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, London SW1
No cold showers at Gordonstoun
Amusing as it was to see the school being used as a political football, it is clear that Tristram Hunt has not visited Gordonstoun in recent years (“Children ‘need lessons in how to concentrate’ ”, 10 February).
We urge him to do so. He will realise that Gordonstoun abandoned cold showers decades ago, and he would be met by students who would no doubt impress him with the very characteristics he wishes to develop.
In emphasising the importance of “the teaching of resilience and self-control and character to improve life chances” he is getting to the heart of exactly what Gordonstoun is about.
We would welcome Mr Hunt to the school to witness a very different educational experience from the one he imagines.
Simon Reid, Principal, Gordonstoun School, Elgin, Moray
In 1956, I attended a newly built grammar school. It had cricket, football and rugby pitches, four tennis courts and a grade-one running track. The whole site was sold off by the Thatcher government and is now a housing estate. This school was not alone, as many state schools found their grounds sold off; the ethos was that sporty types could join a club, they did not need schools.
So when the Education Secretary stands up and says he wants state schools to offer the same facilities and be as good as independent schools we know it is simply hot air. John McLorinan (letter, 7 February) is quite right – Mr Gove has no credibility.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Sad fate of Marius the giraffe
While it is very sad that a healthy young giraffe was killed, the more shocking revelation was that it was dissected in front of a group of schoolchildren. Following recent revelation that Danish slaughterhouses organise visits by school parties, one starts to reassess Denmark and its views on the care of young people.
Gyles Cooper, London N10
It’s funny that we condemn the death of Marius the giraffe while daily inflicting violence and death on chickens, pigs, cows, sheep and fish.
Mark Richards, Brighton