Britain is enduring the worst flooding for 250 years but don't worry, David Cameron is on the case.
My message to the country today is this. Money is no object in this relief effort, whatever money is needed for it will be spent. We will take whatever steps are necessary. [...] We are a wealthy country and we have taken good care of our public finances.
Well that sounds like good news, doesn't it? Except it's rubbish. Obviously rubbish. Is he really making unlimited public funds available to sort the crisis out? Dredging rivers, draining fields, building run-offs, widening sewer mains, rebuilding, restoring and rehousing flooded-out families? This could all cost 100s of billions. Why would David Cameron, who has been so scornful of the last Labour Government for spending 100s of billions preventing the banking system from collapsing, write the emergency services a blank cheque?
The answer is of course that he isn't. The Transport Secretary has been carefully redefining the meaning of these words:
I don't think it's a blank cheque. I think what the prime minister was making very clear is that we are going to use every resource of the government and money is not the issue while we are in this relief job, in the first instance, of trying to bring relief to those communities that are affected
So by 'money is no object', he meant 'money is not the only way we will offer help', which is strange because that is not in any sense what those words mean.
In case we are still hoping for large-scale government action, the Tory Chief Whip has today explained:
Money is no object in this relief effort. We have increasing funding for flood defence to £2.4 billion over the four years of this government from the £2.2 billion of the previous four years.
That's hardly a blank cheque. It's, what, £50 million more a year? Except that it isn't even that. The Tories have a tendency to include local authority funding in their estimates. Direct government spending, as they recently had to reveal, has gone up from £2.341 billion in the 2011-15 spending review to a whopping £2.371 billion in the next. A change of £30 million, or £7.5 million per year, with the funding not kicking in for a year or more. And I don't know what inflation will do to that figure either; is it possible that they will actually have cut funding for flood defences in real terms?
The thing is, I don't think they can help themselves. It's not that they are lying to us. It's just ideology. It's what the Right does: it denies the central foundation of their belief: that the profit motive is what sorts everything out, not altruism, or moral responsibility, or kindness, or love, just profit. Which means that money, according to them, should come first; it should be the top practical priority. Because this is clearly such a despicable attitude, they are reluctant to say it out loud. So the head of a privatised rail company tells us, with all sincerity, that 'safety is our number one priority', even though their fiduciary duty to their shareholders means that it mustn't be. Safety is only important if an accident hits profits, but all these companies know there for the shareholders danger must be balanced by profit.
So when David Cameron tells us that 'money is no object' he's just exercising that ideological reflex to deny the overwhelming crowning importance of money in his view of the world. He's so used to denying what he thinks, he even says it when it means nothing and stands in blatant contradiction to everything else he thinks.
It's pure ideology, pure misdirection, pure hokum. Look at it: the phrase is almost a vanishing trick - whoosh! look - and the object is gone...