WEEKENDER: Politicians fail to give flood crisis any welly
11:30am Saturday 15th February 2014 in News
Wales players look dejected in the final minutes of the RBS 6 Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday February 8, 2014. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brain Lawless/PA Wi
THE humble wellington boot, like large swathes of England and Wales, has taken a battering this week.
No sooner had representatives of Those Who Rule taken to the drenched highways and byways of the Thames Valley to purse their lips in a cat's bottom style in an attempt to look concerned at the plight of riverside residents, than the critics started up.
"Ooh, look at them in their Hunter's," they carped, assuming that everyone knows what Hunter's are, and immediately setting said footwear up as an object of derision.
And with the dainty little buckle and belt combo at the top of each individual welly, Hunter's are easy to deride - but targeting the footwear misses the point.
For it is not the wellies that are the problem. Plenty of those beleaguered by floods in Somerset, Berkshire and other parts of the country wear them, though the water has been so deep, a fat lot of good they have been to the majority.
Me, I've never got on with wellies because I've never been able to find a pair that fit snugly without having to resort to wearing an extra pair of socks, which to my mind kind of negates the whole idea of having a sizing system. However, I digress...
No, it is not the wellies, but the latecomers who are wearing them who are the problem - traipsing around the Berkshire countryside trying to look useful and meaningful, waving metaphorical Government cheque books and proclaiming "here, have a lot of dosh, everything will be ok."
They tiptoe around the floods' edges like toddlers on a beach who tentatively dip a toe in the sea, then run away squealing as the waves come in.
Meanwhile, as the victims of these floods continue to bail themselves out, or wait until the waters recede, the issue has become for the Coalition what the petrol crisis of 2000 became for Labour - a bit of a gamechanger, a moment when the wafer thin patience of the populace with the listlessness of government snapped.
There has been a lot of hot air emitted by politicians of all hues this week, many of whom spend vast amounts of time stressing the need to avoid the 'blame culture' but who have been all too happy to invoke it as the waters rise.
A classic example is Damian Green, home office minister and Conservative MP for a constituency in leafy Kent, who pledged on the BBC's Question Time last Thursday not to 'politick' about the floods, only to seconds later begin politicking shamelessly.
True, he was responding to baiting from Labour's shadow employment minister Chris Bryant, another who could not help himself, but even so, the spectacle was less than edifying.
Contrast this with the efforts of one chap in Berkshire who was featured on the television news delivering villagers' mail and essential supplies in his nifty car-that-converts-into-a-boat.
Also, farmers from Yorkshire have been delivering tonnes of essential cattle feed to their counterparts on the waterlogged Somerset Levels, through an initiative known as Tractor Aid.
Ordinary folk getting on with it and helping their neighbours and those in need, while the politicians wade about gingerly and are pictured looking intently at the horizon over submerged fields (hello, Nigel Farage).
One might be tempted to call these good deeds examples of David Cameron's much-trumpeted Big Society - but that would be a crass example of politicking, would it not?
TWO weeks into the Six Nations Championship and I'm still waiting for the tournament to really get going.
It might just be me and my great expectations, but I can't help feeling that the whole thing so far has been a bit of a letdown.
Wales fans are of course still gnashing their teeth about the size and manner of the defeat to Ireland in Dublin last week, after a less than convincing opening day victory over Italy.
England should have beaten France, but didn't, and beat Scotland but should have done so by 50 or 60 points instead of a paltry 20.
Ireland are undefeated, but have hardly been spectacular in victory, as their opposition has been found wanting. Ditto France, though they dug in against England.
Italy have been their usual plucky but unconvincing selves, while the Scots have been a pitiful shadow of even their recent underachieving sides.
There is still time for a genuine class team to emerge from the mud - but with the Rugby World Cup little more than 18 months away, if I were a fan of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, I would be rubbing my hands in anticipation.
Normally I dislike the weekend when the Six Nations takes a break, but this one has arrived and I'm feeling relieved. And worried.