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Boris Johnson has been branded a “part-time prime minister” after disappearing from the public eye for a week as parts of Britain were ravaged by floods.
Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of “turning his back” on victims by staying “silent” and “sulking in his grace and favour mansion at Chevening” last week.
Johnson spent the majority of last week at the Kent country house without appearing in public as hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the worst-hit areas.
It stood in stark contrast to his approach during last year’s election, when he visited flood victims and convened a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra meeting.
Corbyn accused Johnson of “pretending to care when he doesn’t really care at all because there’s no votes on the line at this moment”.
The outgoing Labour leader also contrasted Johnson’s “schmoozing” at the Tory black and white ball fundraiser on Tuesday evening with his absence from the government’s flood response.
Johnson’s previous “AWOL” moments were also highlighted by Corbyn, including delaying his return to London to deal with the 2011 riots while serving as the city’s mayor, and taking days to appear to respond to the US assasination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, having taken a holiday to the private Caribbean island of Mustique.
“The prime minister was keen to pose for cameras when there was a crisis during the election,” Corbyn said.
“But he often goes AWOL.
“He was late to respond to the London riots because 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 in a mansion in Kent.
“The MP for Calder Valley [Craig Whittaker], another one of his friends, said it’s not good enough.
“How can the country trust 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 is real insurance for people whose homes are being ruined by these floods as we speak.”
Responding to a different question, Johnson defended his actions.
He told MPs: “I’m very proud of the response the government has mounted over the last few days.
“We convened the National Flood Response Centre on [February 14] and since the flooding began there has been a constant stream of ministerial activity led by the environment secretary [and] the communities secretary.
“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.
“And we don’t hear that from the honourable member [Corbyn].”
The government has also provided a package of support, including allowing households to apply for up to £500 of hardship payments, as well as council tax and rates relief for three months for “significantly affected” homes and businesses.
Small- to medium-sized businesses are eligible for a grant worth up to £2,500 if they have suffered severe, uninsurable losses, while flood-hit homes and companies can apply for up to £5,000 to make them more resilient.
More flooding is expected in the coming hours and days.
The Environment Agency has two severe flood warnings, with a danger to life, in place, 97 flood warnings which require immediate actions, and 138 flood alerts that call for people and businesses to prepare for a potential deluge.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.