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Adam Tugwell: The Flooding aftermath – a view from Tewkesbury

Tugwell_2 Adam Tugwell, a Conservative Councillor in Tewkesbury, describes how local Conservatives got stuck in and helped deliver water to flooded residents.

Friday 20th July in Tewkesbury started pretty normally, other than the fairly consistent and heavy rain which was hammering away outside my office window. By 5pm, lying water in the nearby fields was foretelling a new story for Gloucestershire which didn’t really hit home until I left work. Facing a growing traffic jam into the Town, I decided to use the lanes. Fortunately for me, I was driving my 4x4 pick up and when I found myself in near 18 inches of water, I was promptly able to retrace my steps and enjoy the hour long queue to get home on what is normally a three minute journey.

The real scale of what had happened during a day of incessant rain didn’t become clear until I left to assist my staff with newspaper distribution at 6.30 the following day; Tewkesbury was cut off by as much as a 6ft moat in some places and the devastation that I witnessed around the whole area was akin to a scene from the recent Tom Cruise remake of War of The Worlds – the only aliens in this picture being the many people who had been travelling the M5 and had been stranded in the area overnight.

We couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing and I stood for a good while, quietly located in the middle of what is normally a bustling A-road  leading to the centre of the Town, observing Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue launching a speed boat from the white line of a light controlled road junction.

That morning, I became aware of the probable loss of the first of three local lives as a result of the floods and their aftermath and we all quietly hoped that there will be no more.

Tewkesbury often floods and at this point, many thought it would just be a few days and the whole thing would be behind us. What I didn’t expect the following morning was the news that the water supply had been effected and that we needed to get some bottled water as quickly as possible. I’m not sure that anyone really knew what to make of the whole experience at this point. At the local pub, many families had chosen to have an evening out as a way of enjoying the enforced holiday which had come about by the lack of immediate access to the road network.


This went into Monday, and it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I had my first call from one of my Ward residents who didn’t know what to do about getting water. I just told them I would call them back and called the Council Offices to find out what we had. The response was along the lines of ‘We have water here, but no transport at the moment’. So, I jumped into my pick-up and off I went. 8 days later, the addition of a trailer and Cllr Tugwell’s water bottle distribution operation is now a part of daily life!!!

During the past week, the events which have taken place have brought out the absolute best in some and the horrifying worst in others. Politicians, I count amongst this number (although I am pleased to say that none have as yet been caught urinating into water bowsers…)

Gordon Brown visited twice in the earlier part of last week and scored highly with locals because of his apparent interest and reinforcement of this by coming back so soon. Personally, I stood a few feet from him at the Borough Council Offices and found his apparent rudeness towards anybody not in view of a camera to be breathtaking. Worst still was the by now almost permanent attendance in any media opportunity of Gloucester’s Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda. I struggled to see the relevance of his involvement in Tewkesbury Town itself and it came as little surprise when stories began to emerge, suggesting that local Labour politicians in Gloucester had attempted to hijack the then embryonic Gloucestershire Flood Relief Fund for their own ends.

DC finally showed up, rather low key on Saturday morning. Like a number of my fellow Conservative Members, I didn’t meet him because I was out delivering water. The subsequent local press has been good and the difference between his approach and that of the PM was that he showed a clear and practical interest in the experiences of people in the area – you know, real life!

Most people here felt that he should have appeared earlier and I would not be honest in saying anything other than I think the Rwanda trip should have been cancelled. However, there is a lesson to be learned here and that is that making politics practical rather than merely idealistic is a clear and defining step and most definitely a territory which Labour finds difficult walking upon.

This aside, I have worked hard to keep the politics out of the work I have been doing in the past week and I have been touched by the support which has come from many people and some with whom I would guarantee I would be ‘fighting’ under normal circumstances. Somebody called into Five Live last week and nominated me as a kind of hero; judging by one of the CH blogs that day, I know that some of you heard it!

One thing that you can all be happy with is that Conservatives have been out there and helping to ‘make it happen’ where help is needed most. Many lessons will be learned from the events in Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas, not all of them obvious.

I hope that many will now realise that one of the greatest strengths that we have for the future is in making a return to a type of political landscape where Conservative politicians are seen to ‘get their hands dirty’ at a time when they are needed by the electorate. Whatever anybody says about timing, people want their elected representatives to be there for them when they are needed and I speak from very recent experience when I say that they appreciate it too.

A lot of people here have had and are continuing to have a difficult time, whether that is just because of a reliance on bowsers and bottled water, or because they have lost many possessions in a flooded home. Tewkesbury Borough Council and Gloucester City Council have established the Gloucestershire Flood Relief Fund with the principle support of Gloucestershire Media and by the weekend, funds raised were already at the £250,000.00 mark.

If you would like to support the fund, further information is available on the website or you can e-mail me directly. 

The Local Authorities and Emergency Services have already received what I would consider to be untimely and inappropriate criticism. Personally, I would like to congratulate them on a fantastic job, in circumstances which it would have been very difficult to foresee.


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