Workers organize support for flood-hit parts of UK

By Hugo Wils
December 9, 2019
Caroline Bellamy, U.K. Communist League parliamentary candidate in Manchester, speaks with Steve Miller in Bentley Nov. 16. Miller is organizing workers into flood relief efforts.
Militant/Hugo WilsCaroline Bellamy, U.K. Communist League parliamentary candidate in Manchester, speaks with Steve Miller in Bentley Nov. 16. Miller is organizing workers into flood relief efforts.

BENTLEY, England — Inadequate provision of flood defenses and other infrastructure, coupled with the government’s refusal to organize much needed aid, have wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of workers and farmers across parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands after flooding here.

Some 300 homes in the South Yorkshire village of Fishlake have been flooded after heavy rain, with more than 1,200 people evacuated. Train lines and roads across the region have been blocked.

“The degree of solidarity and initiative by working people in the face of these problems is a small but telling example of what we are capable of,” Caroline Bellamy told the Militant. Bellamy, who had visited the area Nov. 16 to learn more about what workers face, is the Communist League candidate for Wythenshawe and Sale East, in Manchester in the Dec. 12 parliamentary elections.

In this former mining village of Bentley, also in Yorkshire, Bellamy and CL campaigners met with some of the volunteers organizing to get aid to those affected by the disaster. Volunteers explained that as workers from a local supermarket realized the extent of the flooding they pressed the company to donate a lorry full of material for the cleanup effort. A food bank for residents and volunteers was set up. “Everybody coming together like this feels great!” commented shop owner Brett Horton. He and 10 others filled a minibus and drove some 70 miles from Leicester to help out.

“The Council was no use,” Tina Wallett, one of the volunteers here, told Bellamy. “I phoned them to ask for sandbags. They said that if the water wasn’t in the garden we weren’t a priority. So the water was in the house by the time we got sandbags.” Wallett was on her way to help clean out other people’s homes in a nearby caravan park.

“Dredging all over the country has been neglected for decades,” Ed Bayston, a farmer from East Cowick, told the Daily Mirror. He has helped neighboring farmers get their cattle out of harm’s way during the deluge. “There’s excess trees and vegetation, in and on, the river banks restricting the flow of water,” he said. Clearing away this debris would “reduce the risk of flooding.”

“It’s all too little too late from the Labour-run Council,” Steve Miller, a former coal miner from Bentley, told Bellamy.

“But this time the community’s come together,” said Miller, who is organizing the relief effort, ensuring donations of cleaning and food supplies get distributed.

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson was jeered by some residents when he visited flood-hit areas a full five days after the deluge began and after his government had offered a paltry £500 ($640) in aid to each affected household. Fueling resentment towards people in other parts of the country, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed Johnson’s tardy response was because the area hit was in the north of England, not the more prosperous south.

“Politicians tell you what you want to hear and then don’t do it,” Miller said.

“None of the capitalist politicians have an answer that doesn’t involve making working people pay,” responded Bellamy. “The lack of flood defense and support to those affected is part of a broader package of what working people are going through. Your initiative is an example of the road we have to go.

“And together we have to fight for the government to fund a program of public works to build the infrastructure we need,” she said.

“The workers and farmers government in Cuba responds to such disasters by organizing solidarity from working people, that’s the difference a revolution can make,” CL campaign supporter Ogmundur Jonsson added.

Miller replied, “I can see a revolution like it coming here. People have had enough.”