Flood defence cuts epitomise the mentality of this government

Posted on

MPs are criticising the government this morning for cutting back spending on flood defence spending at a time when the need for them is very obviously rising, but I am not sure why they are surprised. This is an issue at the very heart of the ideology that drives this government.

All of politics is about ideology; I accept that. I am, unambiguously ideological and in a non-party political sense that makes me political. There's nothing surprising about that; anyone with an opinion is political by this definition.

By the same definition objectivity does not exist. To analyse ideologically is, therefore, wholly appropriate. What is surprising is how rarely this is done. Flood defences just happen to provide the perfect example of an issue where ideology matters.

That is because flood defences - bar the odd sand bag - are almost invariably communal. No one can build a sea wall of any meaning for one house. Flood plains work communally, or not at all. And things like the Thames Barrier are beyond the capacity of the private sector because they have no mechanism available to fund them without the problem of free-riding coming into play. The rate of return on them is high, but only if you can find a method to capture it. That method is called tax.

So flood defences are an ideological issue. The individual is not capable of defending themselves against flood water in most cases. Communities can and states are well placed to reallocate resources to ensure the vulnerable are protected. This is, therefore, a role for the state, like it or not.

That is exactly why this government has been and is cutting spending in real terms, and plans to continue doing so. What it does not appear to appreciate is that this cut is at cost to us all. And that is the fault line in its ideological thinking: they cannot see that there is a power within communities that is more than the sum of its parts. Because they cannot they are destroying that community of interest, and this is why their cuts can never deliver the outcome of growth that they expect.

And so flooding should remain high on the political agenda, reminding people just what the difference in ideological choice they have available to them is.