|Flooding in Kendal, a small price to pay for Caroline Spelman to win|
some brownie points from the Tory grandees with her zealous
slashing of flood defence budgets.
The forests sell-off was one of the first of a litany of PR disasters to hit the coalition government. Under huge public pressure Spelman's plans to sell-off publicly owned forests to the private sector were shelved and then quietly killed off. Such a spectacular misjudgement of public opinion is easy to understand when you consider that the prime motivating force behind the modern day Conservative is to reduce the role of the state at all costs. To an ideologically driven Tory, it is "common sense" that all publicly owned assets must be sold off to the highest bidder as soon as possible.
Spelman's self inflicted 30% budget cuts to the environment department in order to win favour from the cut-now, think-later austerians at the top of the Tory party were even more insane than her plans to sell off the forests but it took a little longer for the disastrous consequences to become clear.
Thanks to Spelman's brutal self-inflicted cuts to her own department more than 300 planed flood defences had to be cancelled because of her £860 million pound cut over the 2010-2015 period. It has been estimated that for every £1 spent on flood defences the country saves £8, an astonishingly high fiscal multiplication effect of 8.00. This means that cuts to flood defence budgets are a spectacularly obvious example of false economies (chucking the baby out with the bathwater). After the huge floods of 2007, the Pitt review concluded that spending on river and coastal flood defences needed to be increased. To their credit Neo-Labour actually did pretty well, boosting spending on flood defences by 33% between 2007 and 2010. Spelman's ideologically driven cuts undid much of their work and ensured that spending fell back again by over 25% in the first year of the new government.
Exceptionally wet weather in the summer of 2012 saw large floods overwhelm thousands of homes and businesses and cause hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage across the UK. Kendal in Cumbria was one of the locations particularly badly hit and was one of the 300 places to have funding for flood defences cut as part of Spelman's barmy "cost-cutting" exercise. Perhaps the people of Kendal are glad to know that the misery and financial cost of being flooded is simply a consequence of Spelman's attempt to win favour with the Tory grandees, that their lives have been turned upside-down just to serve her personal self-interest.
Spelman should go far in the Tory party, she has all of the traits of the modern Conservative, a noxious blend of incompetence, malice, economic illiteracy and pure unrestrained self-interest.