A Boris Johnson ally was confronted on live TV today over the Tories' "electioneering" on flooding.
Nadhim Zahawi struggled to explain why Boris Johnson visited flooded regions with a mop before the election – but now he's safely in office, is now holed up in 115-room grace and favour manor Chevening.
Business Minister Mr Zahawi claimed it was "more important" to get money to those affected than for them to see their Prime Minister in a "photo op".
"Quite rightly, rather than having a jamboree of media and a whole entourage going, he wants to help people by getting the funding to them," he told Sky News.
But host Kay Burley pointed out that the Tory leader took a very different tune in November – when he visited Matlock, Derbyshire, and was pictured with a mop in what some might call a media jamboree.
Quizzed about the change in approach, Mr Zahawi said: "Well look, as I said, different, er, er, politicians have been already up. George Eustice the Environment Secretary is leading this, er, erm, response…"
But Ms Burley asked again: "Why did he go before Christmas when he was electioneering and he's not going now?"
He replied: "As I said to you he's focused to make sure I and the business minister get the money out the door."
The Sky News host claimed the PM was "lording it in his country estate" after refusing to call a COBRA emergency committee meeting.
She told Mr Zahawi: "He's in his country estate. People are up to their armpits in smelly water. They're saying where's our Prime Minister? We voted for him just before Christmas. He said he had our best interests at heart. Where is he?"
Mr Zahawi insisted: "He made sure that George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, is on top of this, that is what the Prime Minister does, that is what prime ministers do.
"He is now Prime Minister and is leading the team as the Prime Minister but quite rightly, rather than having a sort of jamboree of media and your whole entourage going, he wants to help people by getting the funding to them, like businesses, £2,500 per business impacted by the floods, the Bellwin Scheme activated".
Mr Zahawi added: "Ultimately, what's more important, action or just simply having a media photo op?
"What's better? It's much better for the Prime Minister to keep his ministers focused on delivery rather than a media photo op."
As the argument over the PM's previous photo op trailed on Mr Zahawi snapped: "Kay, we can discuss this as long as you like…". To which she replied swiftly: "Thanks!"
The row came as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid a visit to South Wales today to meet communities affected by Storm Dennis, meet residents and support relief and recovery work.
The Labour leader is due to meet flood victims near Pontypridd – and blast the Conservative leader for spending the week at a country mansion in Kent and his No10 bunker.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Corbyn said: “In refusing to visit flood-hit communities, nowhere-to-be-seen Boris Johnson is showing his true colours by his absence.
"Failing to convene COBRA to support flood-hit communities sends a very clear message: if the Prime Minister is not campaigning for votes in a General Election he simply does not care about helping communities affected by flooding, especially communities that have repeatedly been flooded in recent years.”
In response the Tories accused Mr Corbyn of "politicising" the floods.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “ Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t be trying to politicise the floods, he should be backing the government’s move to support and work with emergency personnel who are working tirelessly to help everyone affected."
Councils have been able to access emergency funds this week under the Bellwin Scheme to help the worst hit.
And on Tuesday night, ministers unveiled measures to help the flood-hit.
Affected households can apply for up to £500. Homes and firms “significantly affected” can get 100% council tax and rates relief for at least three months.
Small to medium-sized firms with “severe, uninsurable losses” are eligible for up to £2,500.
But Rob Kane, whose home in Ironbridge, Shrops, was filled with floodwater, said of the £500: “That will pay for the disinfectant, thanks. It’s laughable really. It’s nothing.”
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