There are many matters on which I could correspond with you and offer a viewpoint I doubt you will ever hear from the people you choose to surround yourself with in UKIP. But for now I wish to content myself with addressing the issue of your ‘Farage on Friday‘ piece in today’s Daily Express and enquiring where on earth your mind was when you wrote it.
Your story selection of the floods in the Somerset Levels was entirely appropriate. This is a major issue with enormous consequences for the lives and livelihoods of many people, deserving of proper examination of how such a dramatic, large scale event has been able to come about. It therefore required someone with a high public profile to bring the facts to the fore, air them, and ensure that those who have contributed to this disastrous situation feel the discomfort of unrelenting scrutiny.
Presented with this golden opportunity, to add value by bringing little known but vital facts to a wide audience, you bungled it with a conflagration of superficial waffle.
As you are the leader of a political party that professes to oppose UK membership of the EU, and presumably therefore having a vested interest in highlighting where EU legislation has had a malign impact on British people, it defies belief that nowhere in your 759 words did you find space to reference and explain the role that EU directive 2007/60/EC, also known as the Floods Directive, has had in bringing about the conditions for this flooding.
The shift away from flood prevention to flood ‘management’ is detailed on the Commission website which underlines the priority being given to the ‘environment’, and calls in aid a number of EU measures, including the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. The Floods Directive is part of the package and, the EU sternly warns, has to be implemented by 2015. One would think this would be red meat for an EUsceptic party’s leader. But not for you it seems.
The fact you are a leader of a political party that has railed against quangos suggests you would have an interest in exposing this complicity of quangocrats in making such serious flooding possible, particularly when they hand you a gift of a comment to hang around their necks. But it seems that you did not feel the staggering comment of Baroness Young – as quoted in this segment of a Guardian piece from 2008 (emphasis mine) which explains the Environment Agency’s agenda with regard to land that was formerly marsh or wetland such as the Somerset Levels – was sufficiently important in putting the Environment Agency’s part in this debacle into its proper context:
If water truly is the stuff of life, then the world’s wetlands are the key to the survival of all living things on our planet. They provide a unique refuge for a wealth of plants and animals: a complex ecosystem which helps sustain life not just in the wetlands themselves, but in their surrounding habitats as well.
But wetlands have a problem. Because they are usually in low-lying areas, and easily accessible, they are prime targets for development. By draining a wetland, and building homes, roads and factories, a nation may boost its economic performance; but this is almost always at the expense of biodiversity.
Yet it’s not all bad news. Uniquely, wetlands can be created – or recreated – much more quickly and easily than other vital habitats such as ancient woodlands, hedgerows or rainforest. As Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, says, “Just add water!”
These actions, or more correctly inactions, by the Environment Agency are germane to the situation in Somerset. But instead you chose to focus your piece in terms of money rather than dealing with how this was allowed to happen and who oversaw the agenda that was followed.
It is with not a small amount of irony that UKIP rushes into print on its website and with comments to the media from your deputy, Paul Nuttall, to respond to inaccurate stories about supposed EU meddling in British matters, such as the use of flags on food packaging or the volume of water in toilet cisterns. Yet when the EU actually has direct contributory involvement in the shocking scale of the floods in Somerset – a matter of real substance and appalling impact on British people – and a sustainability agenda has been vigorously pursued by your political opponents, whose placemen reference the restoration of wetlands in places where they used to exist, such as the Somerset Levels, with glib comments such as ‘Just add water!’, you are nowhere in the debate.
It will not come as any surprise to you that the details above were extracted thanks to the forensic research skills of your former colleague, Richard North. One is moved to ask if it is because North is a former colleague that his valuable work is routinely passed over by UKIP, to the detriment of the EUsceptic movement? If that were the case, then it would be a disgrace that you would put personal issues before doing all you can to realise your stated aim of getting this country out of the EU.
Your Express column was a terrible missed opportunity and has let down the people of the Somerset Levels, who deserve better for all they are suffering.