I’m going to do something unashamedly British in this week’s column: talk about the weather. I’m writing this at the end of two record breakingly hot days in which temperatures across Tameside soared into the late thirties. My family found that keeping our curly coated dogs cool and hydrated was quite the endeavour, and a decent night’s sleep was elusive all round. Every conversation was prefaced by acknowledgment that it was rather warm, wasn’t it.
I hope you all took great care as the red hot days hit, of yourself, your pets and any vulnerable loved ones. No doubt if you’re reading this after a few days of regular temperatures, those boiling days already feel a distant memory. But the fact is that from the Beast of the East to 40 degree frenzies, extreme weather events are becoming more common.
So Britain is going to have to step up and get more resilient. We joke about how a few leaves on the line is enough to topple UK infrastructure, but let’s be honest, we’ve seen enough floods and moor fires locally over the last couple of years to know the cost, devastation and chaos that under-preparedness for extreme conditions can bring.
We need a new approach to preparing for national emergencies. From pandemics to hurricanes, it ought to be clearly someone’s specific job to make sure Britain is ready for whatever might hit us next. We need a Minister for Resilience to coordinate government-wide responses, taking in expertise from business, charities and more, and we need to urgently review COBRA. We should also consider overhauling Local Resilience Forums to introduce clear accountability, training, and formal inspections. It’s time the public knew how well prepared their area is for what’s round the corner.
The Government promised us a National Resilience Strategy, but ten months after the consultation, there is still no sign of it. Despite the Met Office issuing its first ever red warning for heat, the Prime Minister, did not attend a second emergency COBRA meeting on Saturday, opting to attend a party instead, staying ever true to the theme of his premiership. His zombie Cabinet were too distracted infighting over their leadership contest do their jobs.
Our country cannot be so unprepared for the elements that workplaces close, rail tracks buckle, and fire services hit the brink. We need serious action on climate change; we need to sort out our infrastructure; and we need to keep workers safe. We need a Britain that’s ready for anything.