Boris Johnson faces ‘part-time’ PM jibe amid criticism over flood response

By Richard Wheeler and George Ryan, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson was branded a “part-time Prime Minister” as Jeremy Corbyn confronted him over his “silent” response to flooding across the country.

The Labour leader urged the Government to “step up to the plate” and protect communities after claiming Mr Johnson had been “sulking” in his grace-and-favour mansion in Kent.

The PM defended the Government’s investment in flood defences and insisted he was “proud” of the response following recent storms.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn told MPs: “You can’t give local authorities the clear message you support them and then turn your back on them.

“Not my words, a Conservative council leader said that.”

He added: “The Prime Minister was silent, sulking in his grace-and-favour mansion at Chevening.”

Mr Johnson replied: “I’m very proud of the response the Government has mounted over the last few days.

“We convened the National Flood Response Centre on the 14th and since the flooding began there has been a constant stream of ministerial activity led by my right honourable friends the… Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

“And never forget that in spite of the flooding, and no-one should underestimate the anguish that flooding causes and of course it’s an absolute shock to the households that are affected, but it is thanks to the measures that this Government has put in that 200,000 households have been protected from flooding.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

“And we don’t hear that from (Mr Corbyn).”

Mr Johnson was repeatedly heckled by Labour MPs over his no-show in flood-hit communities, with shouts of “there he is” heard when he stood up at the despatch box.

Mr Corbyn questioned if the PM was “pretending to care” as there are “no votes on the line” at the moment before warning the Government is investing fewer than half the £5.6 billion required to improve flood defences.

He also raised concerns about 20,000 properties which are not protected by the Government’s insurance scheme nor flood defences, to which Mr Johnson insisted his administration has spent recent weeks looking at “what we can do to protect households that do not have proper insurance”.

Mr Corbyn concluded by attacking the PM’s record on responding to crises, saying: “The Prime Minister was keen to pose for cameras when there’s a crisis on during the election but he often goes AWOL.

“He was late to respond to the London riots as he was on holiday, he was on a private island when the Iranian general was assassinated, and last week he had his head in the sand at a mansion in Kent.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was proud of the Government’s repsonse to flooding (House of Commons/PA)

“The MP for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), another of his colleagues, said it’s not good enough.

“How can the country trust a prime minister, a part-time prime minister, last night schmoozing Tory party donors at a very expensive black-tie ball instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering because of the floods?

“This Government needs to step up to the plate and invest in defences and ensure there’s real insurance for people whose homes are being ruined by these floods as we speak.”

Mr Johnson said the Government has been “investing massively in flood defences” and compensating those who have suffered from flooding, before listing other policies.

He then accused Labour MPs of “jabbering away”, adding: “The hottest topic of debate in the Labour Party is what job should (Mr Corbyn) have in the shadow cabinet after the leadership election.

“They are engaging themselves in narcissistic debate about the Labour Party. We are getting on in delivering the people’s priorities.”