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Inside Politics with Michael Wilkinson: PM David Cameron's visit to Gloucester squeezed of compassion

By citizenmike  |  Posted: February 19, 2014

insidepolitics

Inside Politics with Michael Wilkinson

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Each week, public affairs reporter Mike Wilkinson takes an alternative stroll down the corridors of power.

At the weekend I brushed off my wellies and went for a jolly good walk up Cleeve Hill. They weren’t going to win any awards in the fashion stakes but they did the job nicely. It did make me ponder the rise of the welly in recent days, what with Prime Minister David Cameron and his rivals Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg sporting them as they took to Britain’s flood-hit areas.

David Cameron’s are of the sturdy variety. I’m sure they cost a fair bit if his £90 haircuts are anything to go by. But then he’s going to need a good pair as he vows to visit all of the communities that have been flooded.

On Monday it was our turn to receive a visit from the PM. To an unwitting observer, Cameron met with embattled residents of Longford at the Queen’s Head pub before heading to disaster HQ in Waterwells to meet officials.

But the reality of the visit was that the PM only spoke to an invited, private party at the Longford boozer.

One resident said: “My friend who is one of the worst affected out at Sandhurst rang to ask if I’d go to the meeting on her behalf as she and the others weren’t able to attend as they are flooded in. When I went along, it was ‘named officers only’.

“However, they were good enough to let me speak to the PM on his way in. So, I was able to put my friend’s case , and those of others. He told me he’d look into it, so we’ll wait and see. So, no, it wasn’t open to ‘the residents’ as such.”

You can’t help but feel that there is something slightly detached about it all. Political leaders worry so much about being caught out on camera with an angry residents that the whole charade is media managed to death and any hint of compassion is squeezed out.

At least the Royals have got it right. Princes William and Harry mucked in filling sandbags and Prince Charles spoke passionately about the situation.

I’m not saying we should go to the lengths of what they do in the USA, with politicians hugging weeping locals, but could the PM’s visit to Gloucester have been a little less controlled by bright, young PR gurus and a little more heartfelt?

Still, it must be keeping welly manufacturers in business.

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