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26 February 2020

Boris Johnson is savaged for 'schmoozing' at Tory fundraiser with Go Compare soprano - despite failing to visit flood victims for 12 days (and counting)

  • Boris Johnson took PMQs in the Commons after keeping low profile for week
  • The premier has been criticised for failing to visit any victims of flooding chaos
  • He attended the Conservative Black & White Ball fundraiser in London last night
  • Mr Johnson's allies insist his presence would only distract from emergency effort
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock been face of government Coronavirus response

Boris Johnson was yesterday savaged for 'schmoozing' donors at a Tory fundraiser where he belted out a Welsh rugby hymn instead of visiting flood victims.

Mr Johnson was mauled in the Commons with jibes that he is a 'part-time PM' who does not 'care' about flooding victims.

Video has emerged of the premier at the glitzy Black and White ball last night, singing on stage with compere Wynne Evans, star of the Go Compare adverts.

As an awkward-looking Mr Johnson tried the first line of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the opera singer joked that he had a 'touch of the John Redwoods' - a reference to the former Cabinet minister's notorious attempt to remember the Welsh national anthem.

Evans then sang 'Land of My Fathers', with Mr Johnson giving the traditional line 'Ar hyd y nos' to applause from the audience.

He also posed for pictures with prominent Conservative supporters at the event - where some lots were auctioned for tens of thousands of pounds.

An anonymous donor paid £60,000 for gold and silver versions of the Brexit Day commemorative coin, and a signed copy of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Other lots up for auction included a game of tennis with Mr Johnson - which is also said to have fetched £60,000 - a flight in a Lancaster Bomber with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, and lunch with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland in prison.

More than 650 people paid £1,000 a head for tickers to the annual event in Battersea.

Jeremy Corbyn slammed the premier at PMQs today for spending time raising cash for his party 'instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering'.

But Mr Johnson desperately tried to deflect criticism for failing to visit in 12 days since the floods hit, including last week when he stayed at the Chevening estate in Kent during the Commons recess.

He said he was 'very proud' of the government's response, claiming there had been a 'constant stream of activity' from ministers despite him taking a back seat.

Flood-hit communities have lashed out at the government for its response to the severe weather conditions that have blitzed the country, and criticised the PM for his no-show in struggling areas such as Yorkshire, South Wales and the South West.

Storm Dennis hit on Saturday February 15, causing transport chaos as high-winds cancelled flights and rain lashed the sodden ground.

Just 12 hours later, and after torrential downpours overnight, various parts of the country were flooded, and 12 days later have still not been visited by Mr Johnson.

Anger has been growing over the way the government has reacted since the bad weather first started three weeks ago when communities in Yorkshire were flooded after Storm Ciara, in scenes reminiscent of Boxing Day 2015.

Locals in Bewdley, Worcestershire - where the Severn has overcome flood defences - expressed anger at the PM.

Jane Taylor Cohen said: 'It's not good that Boris Johnson hasn't showed up.

'If he was here I would ask him 'what are you going to do, these people need you'

'I think a lot of people are going to be angry with him.'

Margaret Mansell has lived on the Wharfage for 30 years and was one of the last residents to be evacuated today.

She said: 'He was very fast to go to Yorkshire when he was after t he election vote up north when there were floods. Now, there's been no sign of him.

'There's been no sighting of him at all through any of the floods but he was very, very visible when he was after votes in Yorkshire and the north.

'There's very little he can do but now he's got his massive majority he doesn't care.

'I was here in 2000 when it last flooded. In 2000 it was bad and that was when the community got together.'

Ex-veteran Ian Donnelly, 54, said: 'Boris should pay a visit to the residents or affected communities to show support to those communities, whether that's at Ironbridge or Shrewsbury or Worcester, it would be good to see that.'

Yesterday Mr Johnson hosted Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at Downing Street as another of the hardest hit areas in the country, Shrewsbury slammed him for not visiting the flood-stricken area.

Mark Davies, 59, who runs Darwin's Townhouse B&B in Shrewsbury, said he had suffered thousands of pounds of damage and had been unable to obtain insurance.

Asked about the Prime Minister's absence in the crisis, he said: 'Boris Johnson should make some sort of nod to acknowledge all the devastation.'

Mr Johnson received a brutal grilling as he finally surfaced in the Commons after more than a week in which he has barely spoken a word in public.

However, Mr Johnson said: 'I am very proud of the response the government has mounted over the last few days.

'Since the flooding began there has been a constant stream of ministerial activity led by the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Local Government...

'No-one should underestimate the anguish that flooding causes.. but it is thanks to the measures this government has put in that 200,000 houses have been protected.'

But Mr Corbyn said Mr Johnson was always 'AWOL' when the country faced crises - including being on holiday in the Caribbean over New Year when tensions with Iran threatened to escalate out of control.

'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?' he said.

'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 Corbyn told MPs Mr Johnson had 'turned his back' on victims and chosen to stay 'silent, sulking in his grace and favour mansion at Chevening'.

And he pointed out that Mr Johnson had found time to attend the Tory Black & White fundraiser ball in London last night.

'The Prime Minister was keen to pose for cameras when there's a crisis on during the election but he often goes AWOL,' the Labour leader said.

'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.'

Allies insist Mr Johnson's presence would only have disrupted efforts by emergency workers to ease the impact of the extreme weather.

They have also defended his approach of delegating the response on floods and Coronavirus to Cabinet ministers, saying it is a more effective way of governing than trying to micromanage from No10.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Mattt Hancock has been the face of the government's response to the Coronavirus - which experts now fear could become a full-blown pandemic.

There have been signs of tensions between the Department of Health, which handles domestic public health, and the Foreign Office, which has responsibility for relations with other countries and helping Britons abroad.

Mr Hancock appeared to contradict government travel advice yesterday when he suggested he personally would not travel to northern Italy, where there have been a rash of cases of the virus.

The Foreign Office later changed its advice to urge against 'all but essential' travel to the affected areas.

Source: Mail Online