Boris Johnson opts to stay in lakeside mansion rather than visit flood victims

Boris Johnson visited the people of Derbyshire after the floods during the general election campaign. Photograph: Danny...

Boris Johnson visited the people of Derbyshire after the floods during the general election campaign. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson's spokesperson said he is receiving updates on the flooding from a 115-room lakeside mansion in Kent after being asked why he was not visiting the victims.

The prime minister has resisted calls to chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee, Cobra, to tackle the crisis.

He convened such a meeting in response to severe flooding in Yorkshire and the East Midlands in November, in the middle of the election campaign, but is not expected to visit any flood-hit areas on Monday.

Asked why Johnson was not personally visiting areas hit by the recent storms, a Number 10 spokesman said: "The prime minister will receive regular updates on this.

"It's right that Defra and the Secretary of State for the Environment are leading on this."

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The PM made visits to Matlock in Derbyshire and Fishlake, near Doncaster, during the election campaign last November.

Downing Street said he was being kept updated about events as he worked from Chevening, the country retreat usually used by the foreign secretary.

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He has opted to stay in the Grade I-listed 17th-century mansion in the Kent countryside while Chequers is undergoing maintenance.

Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard criticised the decision to only visit flooding victims during a general election campaign and not at other times.

He tweeted: "Why has Boris Johnson not called a Cobra meeting to deal with the severe floods?

"He did so just before the general election when he needed your votes, but not now.

"People's homes and businesses are underwater. It's time for a proper government response.

"With more severe weather happening more often ministers need to recognise the UK needs a new comprehensive and funded flooding strategy."

Britain has been battered by two storms over the last two weekends - with Storm Ciara bringing flooding to the North of England, and Storm Dennis causing severe flooding in South Wales.

Dennis lashed the country with 90mph winds over the weekend and drenched some places with more than a month's worth of rain in 48 hours.

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