Populus’s twice weekly poll today has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15% (tabs here. These figures are on the back of a slight tweak in Populus’s methodology. Previously they weighted party identification to figures drawn from the 2010 British Social Attitudes survey, which normally resulted in heavily downweighting UKIP and meant Populus tended to show one of the lowest levels of UKIP support and some of the highest levels of Lib Dem support.

Using the new method Populus have factored in alternative sources for their party ID targets, with the effect that they are weighting the Lib Dems and Labour to slightly lower figures, UKIP and no party to slightly higher figures. Hence while this is a low Labour lead compared to most of Populus’s polls over recent weeks, some of that is down to the method change: using Populus’s old weightings today’s figures would have been Con 32, Lab 37, Lib Dem 11, UKIP 12.

Also out today we have a new YouGov Scotland poll in the Sun. Referendum voting intentions are YES 34%, NO 52%. Yes is up one point since YouGov’s last poll, No unchanged. By itself the change is insignificant, but looking at the wider trend of polls on the Scottish referendum there is a general trend of a small shift towards YES since the publication of the white paper. Past Scottish referendum polls are collected here.


287 Responses to “Populus – CON 33, LAB 36, LD 9, UKIP 15”

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  1. Not sure what to make of todays sample. Tories have a 3% lead amongst Men and are 10% behind Labour for Women.

    http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/wx9nnp26kc/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-140207.pdf

    The Tories do appear to only fluctuate in line with the UKIP polling, with Labour steady.

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  2. @ Colin

    As I understand it, there is not now enough shingle coming from the west (flints from the chalk) to close off the Rother even if allowed to move east freely. The shingle feeding at Pett is to maintain the sea wall there and protect Pett Level itself. Before the war there was a railway along the sea wall moving shingle from east to west to do the same job.

    To say that local farmers cannot supply all the answers is not to denigrate them, but to acknowledge the complexity of these coastal marshlands and the forces that created (and destroy) them. A superb book is Jill Eddison’s “Romney Marsh: Survival on a Frontier”, but good as it is, it is a hard read because of the intrinsic complexity and, as yet, lack of complete understanding.

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  3. @Far Easterner

    “hopefully the eventual solutions will be more holistic, taking into account all worse eventualities of different natures”

    You’re very optimistic. Here in Somerset we expect to be abandoned to the sea.

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  4. CROSSBAT11
    While there’s room for debate over what remedies there may be for flooding on the Somerset levels, its causes are known increasingly to be global, They have been known about, in terms of the effects of deforestation and damage to the earth’s outer atmosphere of carbon emissions , for forty years and more, and always in a context of asking what can be done to take the necessary international controls v. assertions of a need for scientific proof and objections on the part of special interests.
    An International Environmental Institute report and OECD Development Centre Conference spelled out the then known situation in 1975, with little effective response, for example restrictions on lending by the World Bank family to countries not adopting effective environmental controls.
    I applaud David Cameron’s assessment to Parliament of the need to take account of and increase access to the scientific evidence as a basis of feasible action and investment in measures to meet the now inevitable effects of changes in global climate : see BBC News yesterday reporting Dame Julia Slingo’s statement on behalf of the Met Office:
    “There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”
    “More than 130 severe flood warnings – indicating a threat to life – have been issued since December. In contrast, there were only nine in the whole of 2012…….. Dame Julia said the UK had seen the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years”.
    Action to alleviate and prevent flooding and storm damage in the UK doesn’t lessen the need for continued and stepped up international measures which will need to take place during and beyond the next fifty years, to redress the environmental damage of population increase, carbon emissions and industrial agriculture. It would be nice to see cross-party agreement to channel concerns about the Somerset levels into international agreements and investment to redress its root causes.

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  5. @carfrew – sorry, but you’re not understanding hydrology.

    At the point at which the dredged channel accepts incoming (unaltered) flow, you will have increased the stream bed gradient by dredging on the downflow side. The effect of gravity will be to speed up the flow. This is the point of dredging after all – to get more water out. As you dredge, the upstream inflowing water will drain in faster, until the level in the dredged zone balances with the upstream section and you achieve a stable flow.
    Within the dredged zone itself, the water will be flowing slower, although there will be a larger mass overall.

    The other point about dredging and water levels is that you’re confusing a stock and a flow. The point of dredging is to speed flow, not to increase the stock. Yes, there would be a drop in level. The smaller the stock (ie the less water there is in the catchment system) the bigger impact on the water level that dredging would have. Once the system is full, the relative capacity of the dredged area is minimal compared to the volume of water in the system.

    Looking at the levels now, there are 25km2 reported as flooded. I’ve assumed the flood depth on average is 0.75m, which I think is a bit conservative, and the area flooded is also too small now as this was the figure last week. Nonetheless, that gives a figure of around 50 million m3 of floodwater.

    If we assume a channel to the sea 50m wide, 2,000,000m3 deep and 20km long, and then we imagine dredging it to make it 50% deeper, you would add 1,000,000m3 of storage capacity.

    In the current circumstances, this would translate to reducing the level of the flood waters by 1.4cm. Given that my assumptions have been very generous, I would actually think that the impact would be significantly less than this.

    The EA has also been clear that dredging will protect against minor flood events – as there is additional capacity in the system – but against the heaviest winter rainfall since records began in 1760, and the highest tides ever recorded, there is nothing that could have prevented the levels flooding. I think it’s remarkable that the impacts have been so well contained.

    One other issue with the levels is that it’s a peatland, (locals are still stripping peat from it – reducing the surface level – great example of ‘locals know best’, I’d say). Part of why they want dredging is so they can keep doing this, which I don’t think it sensible. With peatlands there is the added risk of drying the soil.

    If water levels drop too far in summer, peat dries out. The whole point of peat is that is only partially decomposed, as the water creates anaerobic conditions which preserve organic matter. The minute it dries, it starts to oxidize and decompose and gets dissolved (this is what causes peat staining of water on over drained fells). The land level sinks, and flood problems are exacerbated.

    Low lying peat bogs are rare, with most floodplains being silts and gravels, so this is less of an issue in other areas. On the levels, it’s a serious risk.

    Where I would possible agree with some of the comments on the EA is the point @Colin raised. It looks like their policy is to use the levels as a buffer store in floods. This is perfectly sensible and the best way to manage flood events, but people need to be consulted, and where appropriate compensated. There is value to society in the land as a flood absorbing scheme, so society should pay the costs of this.

    Allowing areas to flood, to protect more valuable areas, should be part of a coherent plan, with measures in place to ensure people living and working in the flood areas are looked after.

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  6. @ Far Easterner,

    I think it’s less that people here are taking the farmers for fools, and more that solutions that seem intuitive can actually be useless, or make a problem worse. When all the hydrologists are saying one thing and the farmers are saying another, we’re left with a choice between trusting the science or trusting the intuition of the locals. I don’t think that it’s in any way disparaging the intelligence of the farmers to side with the scientists, especially considering the farmers are understandably upset that their living rooms are underwater and are therefore susceptible to the “Something must be done, this is something, therefore this should have been done!” fallacy.

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  7. CB – my first and only post on the floods is to agree with your 1216 last night – I simply don’t know enough and whilst I of course want t bash Cammo and the Government whenever possible I try to avoid when not on solid ground (no pun intended).

    Did not like the dig at Chris Smith though from the PM thought a bit of blame game and buck passing.

    Re todays YG after a run of much better approval ratings we have has 2 @ -25 and one now at -27 even with a 4 point lead.

    I cant work it out maybe the floods?

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  8. SPEARMINT
    I am sure you are aware that the supposed dichotomy between farmers and scientists is a false one. UK agriculture is, with the Dutch and Danish, the most scientific in Europe, and is founded on continuous interaction between farmers and scientists, both in training universities and colleges and in farming practice, including continuous testing of pasture nutritional content provided by Somerset dairy and cheese farmers to regional scientific laboratories, and backed by ADAS. My guess is that, when all the scientific evidence comes in, the farmers, who are probably only a fifth of the householders and land owners involved, will be right in saying that the inadequacy of both pumping and dredging are the result of gross underfunding of protective measures and of bumbledom.

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  9. @Carfrew – got a long answer in mod – can’t figure why.

    @Far Easterner – I have lived amongst hill farmers for nigh on three decades, and have many friends up here in the farm business. I have to say that while officialdom doesn’t do itself any favours by the way it communicates with farmers, I can also see an inverted prejudice that supports an image of farming that simply doesn’t exist, save for a very few examples.

    In Britain, we view the countryside with sepia tinted spectacles, and idealize rural life to an extraordinary extent. This extends to our view of the horny handed sons of the soil, and elevates the way we think about the innate common sense of the farmer.

    What we don’t often pause to ponder, is that without question, if you look at the science, the single biggest cause of damage to wildlife and the environment has come from farming.

    The farmers ability to understand the countryside is, in the main, strictly limited to earning money from agriculture. They seek to represent their own interests, and care little for the environment, soil erosion, downstream flooding, water pollutions from nitrates, or long term damage to wildlife. If they did, they would read up on these things, and prevent them. But they don’t, choosing instead to deny there are any problems.

    George Monbiot is absolutely correct – the vast majority of our uplands are degraded, over grazed deserts, and the stripping of wildlife from the countryside in the last few decades has been intense.

    I can see a great financial future for farming if they can open their minds and imagine a time when they harvest carbon in soil stores, actively manage water resources and promote biodiversity alongside food production. The economic support systems are readily changeable to meet this future if farmers started pressing for it, but the lack of understanding and willingness to explore new futures is stultifying.

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  10. @carfrew – sorry, but you’re not understanding hydrology.

    At the point at which the dredged channel accepts incoming (unaltered) flow, you will have increased the stream bed gradient by dredging on the downflow side. The effect of gravity will be to speed up the flow. This is the point of dredging after all – to get more water out. As you dredge, the upstream inflowing water will drain in faster, until the level in the dredged zone balances with the upstream section and you achieve a stable flow.
    Within the dredged zone itself, the water will be flowing slower, although there will be a larger mass overall.

    The other point about dredging and water levels is that you’re confusing a stock and a flow. The point of dredging is to speed flow, not to increase the stock. Yes, there would be a drop in level. The smaller the stock (ie the less water there is in the catchment system) the bigger impact on the water level that dredging would have. Once the system is full, the relative capacity of the dredged area is minimal compared to the volume of water in the system.

    Looking at the levels now, there are 25km2 reported as flooded. I’ve assumed the flood depth on average is 0.75m, which I think is a bit conservative, and the area flooded is also too small now as this was the figure last week. Nonetheless, that gives a figure of around 50 million m3 of floodwater.

    If we assume a channel to the sea 50m wide, 2,000,000m3 deep and 20km long, and then we imagine dredging it to make it 50% deeper, you would add 1,000,000m3 of storage capacity.

    In the current circumstances, this would translate to reducing the level of the flood waters by 1.4cm. Given that my assumptions have been very generous, I would actually think that the impact would be significantly less than this.

    The EA has also been clear that dredging will protect against minor flood events – as there is additional capacity in the system – but against the heaviest winter rainfall since records began in 1760, and the highest tides ever recorded, there is nothing that could have prevented the levels flooding. I think it’s remarkable that the impacts have been so well contained.

    One other issue with the levels is that it’s a peatland, (locals are still stripping peat from it – reducing the surface level – great example of ‘locals know best’, I’d say). Part of why they want dredging is so they can keep doing this, which I don’t think it sensible. With peatlands there is the added risk of drying the soil.

    If water levels drop too far in summer, peat dries out. The whole point of peat is that is only partially decomposed, as the water creates anaerobic conditions which preserve organic matter. The minute it dries, it starts to oxidize and decompose and gets dissolved (this is what causes peat staining of water on over drained fells). The land level sinks, and flood problems are exacerbated.

    Low ly!ng peat bogs are rare, with most floodplains being silts and gravels, so this is less of an issue in other areas. On the levels, it’s a serious risk.

    Where I would possible agree with some of the comments on the EA is the point @Colin raised. It looks like their policy is to use the levels as a buffer store in floods. This is perfectly sensible and the best way to manage flood events, but people need to be consulted, and where appropriate compensated. There is value to society in the land as a flood absorbing scheme, so society should pay the costs of this.

    Allowing areas to flood, to protect more valuable areas, should be part of a coherent plan, with measures in place to ensure people living and working in the flood areas are looked after.

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  11. @NEWHOUSET

    “Carfrew “If you just dredge deeper, why would the cross-sectional area change? The water would just sit lower down. Dredge two foot deeper, and the surface of the water would also be two foot lower?”

    “Highly unlikely! With water pouring in from upstream, you’d just land up with another two foot depth of water and the surface would stay the same. The surface level is determined by the level at which the water leaks or flows out – it’s depth has nothing to do with it. Perhaps you’re imagining dredging to be like an enormous giant, using his giant wellington boot to scratch a new, deeper, outlet to the sea! Just as we did with puddles as kids. I don’t think it works like that where the sea level is above that of the drainage canals and rivers.”

    ———

    But water would be less likely to pour in, since Alec was not in this instance talking about flood conditions, but normal conditions, constant flow rate.

    And the sea level cannot easily be above the river. If the sea level is above the river, then the sea will flow up the river until it equalises. The sea level could be above some artificial canal, which is isolated from direct contact with the sea, say if you use pumps to drain it. Even then, if you dredged it deeper, under normal conditions the level might fall to match, because you are not liable to get much extra water flooding in to take advantage, because under normal conditions, there is no flood…

    (You might get a little bit extra water with an artificial canal, because dredging deeper would slightly steepen the hydraulic gradient, thus encouraging bit more run off perhaps. But the level overall would likely go down).

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  12. @ROSIEANDDAISIE

    “The answer, surely, is to dredge the sea? Problem solved.”

    ————————-

    Well, you may have been jesting Paul, but actually, there is something in what your saying there.

    It may not be as salient as the Arsenal game right now, but there are actually schemes proposed which would have a similar effect to dredging the sea: i.e. lowering the sea level, albeit temporarily. Tidal lagoons. One has been proposed that could help the Somerset Levels: the Bridgewater Bay Lagoon. Would also create renewable energy…

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  13. Ok, I’ve been dusting off a few more brain cells… I like this kind of problem because it’s a systems thing…

    Now, it’s not unusual to approach hydrology as a system. Indeed,hydrologists create and use models that endeavour to take all factors into account, using maths to describe the properties of all the factors.

    Thus, a model may take into account evaporation, erosion, the transport of sediment, the flow of water overland in rivers and drainage etc., and the groundwater flows, aquifers etc… with groundwater, the maths is different when the ground is saturated/waterlogged, than when unsaturated.

    And folk have naturally been considering various aspects of all this in debate. There is an important factor that’s kinda been left out though for the most part, and I will come to that. But in the meantime, it’s worth noting that even if it is true that dredging would not completely solve the problem, this is not fundamentally an argument against dredging.

    It is possible that no one measure can solve the problem, so we need a combination of measures, of which dredging could play a part. Abandon dredging, and it requires other aspects of the system to do more of the work. Maybe capturing more of the water can help, but you will have to capture more without dredging.

    It helps to not ignore any important component, and if we consider the maths, then so far we have mostly discussed the impact of the river depth and width on the amount of water flow it can handle, and the total amount of rainfall to be dealt with. Which is fine, but there is another aspect, known as… the hydraulic gradient.

    The hydraulic gradient is, put simply, how steep the slope the water has to travel down. The steeper the slope, the faster the water is liable to flow, and hence it will clear quicker. Problem for the Levels is… the water drains into the sea, and the Levels are not much above sea level, so there’s not much of a gradient. The slope the water travels to the sea, is shallow (indeed in some places, the slope is effectively uphill). If we can increase the gradient, we can increase the rate at which the water clears.

    This is where the tidal lagoon comes in. In normal operation, the lagoon fills up at high tide, then they can seal it off, capturing the water. Then they wait till the tide drops, and release the water, and as it falls to the low tide level, it can drive turbines (spin propellors) and generate electricity renewably.

    But there’s a bonus in times of flooding, because they can operate it in reverse. Seal the lagoon off at LOW tide, rather than high tide, protecting the land from the higher tides, and in effect improving the hydraulic gradient, speeding up the drainage.

    A particular advantage of this approach is that it can provide increased protection if sea levels rise due to global warming etc.

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  14. @Carfrew – I think the basic point is that low ly!ing areas will fill up, dredged or not, due to gravity. Once the capacity is exceeded, you flood.

    You’re right – there are no single measures that alone will be sufficient, but the essential thing about water management is counter intuitive – to slow the water flow as much as possible. (At least it is upstream).

    I really can’t see any circumstances where these floods could have been avoided – as was pointed out upthread, we’ve had not one, but two ‘worst ever seen’ natural phenomenon to hit the coastal areas. Given that, we’ve got away remarkably well with it.

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  15. @carfrew – re lagoons and power – I would have thought it far more economic to install two way turbines, so you generate power with both tide movements?

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  16. @Alec

    My comment about the water level was not an argument for or against dredging. It’s just that you said the cross-sectional area would increase, and I was simply dealing with that bit.

    I do know the difference between a stock and a flow – dear God, Modern Monetary Theory will make sure of it if one is in any doubt. As you can see, I also know about the hydraulic gradient… having done a bit of research since yesterday morning.

    (I found it interesting… they use the diffusion equations etc. and stuff of my youth. The diffusion equation keeps cropping up for me… it’s even used in the Black-Scholes equation in finance for pricing derivatives. )

    Except in the case of an artificial canal, I’d be surprised if dredging would make all that much difference to the hydraulic gradient, since it is fundamentally determined by the sea level…

    I can see your point about peatlands… that’s kinda why I’m in favour of using all methods where useful. Dredge less if you want to preserve peatland, more where you don’t etc. then you can pick and choose the best places to use land for buffers etc.

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  17. ERNIE

    Thanks-and for the book tip. I will look for it.

    I wasn’t aware that there was no danger from eastward drift of flint now. Recently , after heavy seas a new shingle bed has built up on the Camber shore just to the east of the river mouth.

    I was told by a local birdwatcher that the sea wall at Pett Level was breached during the war to flood the levels as a defence against invasion. His list of birds from that time on the Level was wonderful.

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  18. @ALEC

    “@carfrew – re lagoons and power – I would have thought it far more economic to install two way turbines, so you generate power with both tide movements?”

    ——-

    Sounds like a good idea. Though now I’m worrying about knock-on effects, lol. I don’t think the eco peeps always like these lagoons. They prefer artifixial reefs or summat…

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  19. A couple of interesting comments in today’spapers on the Somerset Flood:-

    Dredging ceased in 2003, and a 2008 EA document ( The Parrett Catchment Flood Management Plan) can be read as a clear policy switch to increase the incidence of flooding from the Tone & Parrett. As a consequence, pumping stations were abandoned as silting reduced their effectiveness & increased their operating costs.
    In view of the local outcry at this years events, one wonders how much local consultation & agreement was obtained to the 2008 Plan.

    In Sunday Times, the excellent Charles Glover points a finger at upstream farming practice. Specifically the change from the massive increase in maize cultivation . This cattle feed crop is harvested in the autumn leaving bare soil vulnerable to erosion. An Exeter Uni study found that half the sediments transported downstream in the Tone are now from erosion of maize fields. When it gets to the Parrett this silt meets siltb washed upstream from the incoming tide.

    Glover comments on the £31 m “nature reserve” which critics of EA kept refering to. In fact it was a £21m project to protect residents of the village of Steart from the sea. It involved managed retreat from coastal farmland -by agreement & with compensation, so that more resilient defences could be built further inland. The flooded foreshore is now a new natural habitat.

    Glover makes, for me, the most pithy observation about this issue-the residents of the Somerset Levels, the Agencies & the Government need to decide whether The Levels are meant to be like The Fens , where Agriculture rules, or like The Camargue, where wildlife does. Anyone familiar with the latter will know that a local economy can be built around it.

    Glover believes that a “better informed” consensus is coming together uniting the NFU, RSPB, Councils & EA which will result in dredging the rivers, building a barrage on the Parrett to stop sea flooding-and changing farming practices in the upper catchments.

    Let’s hope so.

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  20. @aw I think the medical treatment questions in today’s poll were badly worded: pay for treatment on holiday is very different from foreigners paying for medical treatment if they live here- and probably pay taxes. The way it is worded means if you read it quickly you only see the holiday phrase. My understanding is that if you are on holiday you already have to pay for treatment. So, what was this question for?

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  21. No new polls out today?

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  22. 35/39/10/10 Allan-but best not to mention it.

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  23. @JimJam

    “Did not like the dig at Chris Smith though from the PM thought a bit of blame game and buck passing.”

    All part of the party political game, I’m afraid. Get the right fingerprints on it and any environmental techno-babble and pseudo science that can be employed, all the better.

    Does anybody think that the wettest January on record might have had something to do with it all?

    Just a thought.

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  24. COLIN

    Thanks…Mums the word…getting tight..shhhhh

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  25. Good Morning all from a windy and sunny Bournemouth.
    Labour seem steady at 39%; and cannot fail to be at least minority government at this figure I think.
    In my area, many new houses have been built just on the edge of the cliff top, with gardens on the actual precipice. It seems reckless to me. Very expensive houses and flats.

    No Government can have culpability if they fall.

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  26. ALLAN

    We can’t be sure of that yet.

    Not sure when we can !

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  27. Daisie hasn’t fully worked out the details but thinks that boiling the flood water so that it all evaporates is the best solution.

    And she’s oany WON !!!!!!!

    ps We have had little Rosie TWO years today.

    She was just 2lbs two oz when I bought her – as tiny as tiny.

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  28. New thread out peeps

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  29. COLIN

    Agreed but nothing like putting a wee stir in the cup.. ;-)

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  30. @carfrew – apologies for sounding a bit presumptuous.

    @Colin – a fascinating post, and another example that the ‘wisdom of the land’ notion is overblown. Upstream farmers creating erosion and down stream silting etc.

    But the overall tone of the comments, and the thinking behind them, really puts us both together, I think. The catchment plan is a sensible, well thought through plan that works, and works well.

    What may well not have been so well thought through is the presentation of the plan, and it’s implementation, in terms of gathering public support from those most affected. The critique has focused on the dredging aspect, which is unfortunate.

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  31. @COLIN

    “Not sure when we can !”

    ——–

    How does six years sound?…

    “Real wages likely to take six years to return to pre-crisis level

    Average wages are at 2004 levels and it will take until six years before they return to 2009 peak according to leading thinktank”

    http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/feb/07/wages-six-years-pre-crisis

    “It’s a long way off,” said Simon Kirby, principal research fellow at the thinktank. “It will take a number of years before people actually start to feel the recovery.”

    The gradual rise in wages could take even longer if Britain’s productivity performance, which has been “abysmal” in recent years, did not improve, he said.”

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  32. @ALEC

    “@carfrew – apologies for sounding a bit presumptuous.”

    ———-

    No worries Alec. I’ve found your posts valuable in helping to get some purchase on the matter.

    I did love the polling on all this. 47% thought neither the government nor EA were at fault for not doing or spending enough on flood defences, and it was down to freak weather.

    But then in the next question, 68% think, “Yes more could have been done… such as dredging rivers”, and 17% think every reasonable precaution had been taken.

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  33. Ukippers seem more likely to say more should have been done…

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  34. @Carfrew

    Looks like that might be about to change. Nearly 2000 people in the food industry are about to be made redundant – 900 after a union voted to strike – and it looks like there will be more soon.

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  35. john Redwood has been on TV today complaining that the Environmental Agency has spent a lot of money but seems to have achieved very little. As ever he is as damaging to his own side as to the opposition

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  36. Metropolitan Political Elite Pt 473

    Lovely example on Daily Politics today. London-based anchor asks Evening Standard correspondent whether UKIP have a chance of taking votes off Lab in Northern Constituencies.

    What next? Sheffield Star real estate correspondent being asked for an opinion on the sea wall at Dawlish?

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  37. PS
    Predictably, the ES correspondent didn’t have a clue.

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