Parliamentary sketch – “A teacup in the storm”

Posted on: 21st February 2014

Storms and their aftermath still predominate much of my activities this week.

When the rail line was severed a fortnight ago I raised a question at PMQs. The pressure for the £multimillion investment necessary to ensure that we have a resilient rail service from Penzance is mounting. I hope that readers will sign the petition I am gathering to demonstrate how strong the campaign is.

At high tide late on Friday afternoon I surveyed the impact of the storm along the Penzance seafront and congratulated the fire service, police and Cornwall Council staff who were working heroically to protect people and property. The storm showed no respect for those parts of the coast that had substantial protection any more than it did for those areas that didn’t. From Penzance rail station to Tolcarne the mountainous waves simply overwhelmed.

Unfortunately I had to race to Torbay Hospital to visit a seriously sick family member later that evening. At the Tamar bridge I noted a three mile tailback of traffic trying to get in to Cornwall. The local radio reported it was taking two hours to crawl from Marsh Mills to the Tamar bridge!

Who had suggested that Cornwall was “closed for business”? Were these storm tourists?

The next day I visited Coverack, Newlyn, Porthleven, Penzance and other places to meet local representatives, residents, services and to survey the impact of the storm.

Just as in Porthleven the week before the seafronts were thronged by thousands of dumbfounded locals and visitors (and visiting politicians!) shocked at the damage and stunned by the power of the sea.

I helped at a couple of properties; clearing and sweeping. I was teased by passers-by for not making sure that my efforts were being recorded by national television cameras and news photographers (after all, what self-respecting politician could do someone a favour without first making sure that it generated favourable media coverage?!).

Nevertheless, I’m pleased that, following the visit from the Deputy Prime Minister – Rt. Hon Nick Clegg MP – last week, Government support has triggered Cornwall Council to provide free sandbags. (I had pressed the previous Council administration for this two years ago but was then rebuffed.)

I’m also pressing Ministers for more support for fishermen and other business that have been very badly affected by the impact of the storms.

Amongst the throngs of locals I met on that sunny Saturday were the predictable small rump of scapegoat-seekers and the eager-to-blame finger-pointers who’d taken a rest from their anti-social networking exploits, presumably to gather evidence.

But we need everyone to come together right now. To ensure that we present a united voice to seek the Government support that we deserve. Not only to restore our coastal defences, but to enhance them.

I have long argued that we should have an offshore breakwater around Penzance harbour and seafront. If we stand “shoulder to shoulder” I feel we can crack this.

When surveying the impact of the storm late Friday afternoon I was offered a cup of tea. “A teacup in a storm?” I asked.

Politics produces a lot of storms in teacups. Finding solutions to the problems caused by the storms isn’t exactly “a cup of tea”. But we will do it more efficiently if everyone rolls up their sleeves and works together.

You can contact Andrew George by email: His constituency office can be contacted at Trewella, 18 Mennaye Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4NG. Telephone: 01736 360020.

Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Kwartron Porthia
Constituency of St Ives
Tel: 01736 360020
Fax: 01736 332866

18th February 2014