A NORTH EAST MP has repeated his call for a public inquiry into the “national crisis” of the “multiple failures” of the response to Storm Arwen.

Grahame Morris is to write to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seeking support for an inquiry into the slow reaction in the aftermath of the storm and the widespread damage caused and power outages.

The Labour MP for Easington constituency in County Durham believes it has, “exposed a lack of foresight and leadership at the highest levels.”

He said: “The response to Storm Arwen showed structural failure at all levels, which left vulnerable people without light and heating for prolonged periods.

“There was nothing on the ground until five days after the storm, and then questions remain about its distribution.

“The multiple failures are too long to list and there are conflicting accounts about who did what and when.”

He said having observed the response of local councils, the Local Resilience Forum, Government ministers and Northern Powergrid, “the blame game has started, with certain organisations trying to cover their backs.”

Mr Morris said: “A series of self-serving internal inquiries in which organisations pat themselves on the back while blaming someone else will rightfully stoke public anger.

“The failures are widespread covering a prolonged period, from years of under-investment in the region to the complete lack of welfare assistance in the aftermath.

“There are local lessons, but also questions of national importance.

“Internal inquiries protect the reputation of the organisation, a comprehensive overarching public inquiry looking at the whole situation will hold people and organisations accountable.

“I don’t want to hear the levelling up lie from Government anymore.

“When people say this would not happen in London, they do so from a position of experience, and not sitting in a warm Whitehall Office in Westminister.

“Our basic infrastructure is weak, leaving our region less resilient during a crisis, and for the rest of the time, it holds back our local economy.

“Whether it is the power network or Northern Rail, our region is expected to put up with sub-standard second-rate services which are prone to failure.

“In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has spent more time at Peppa Pig World than he has discussing Storm Arwen.

“When we need leadership, the Prime Minister hides, knowing the anger he will be met with.

“However, I would say to him, this anger is ground in frustration, in the frustration of being ignored and forgotten about even in a team of crisis.”

Mr Morris said although he is a Labour MP, in “a time of crisis” a Prime Minister of “whatever colour” should take charge of the situation and ensure people have what they need.

“The Prime Minister would see how understanding people have been.

“We appreciate that engineers are working around the clock to restore power.

“We realise the unprecedented nature of the situation and power will not be restored instantly.

“Where it will take time people simply wanted alternative provision and support until power is restored.

“When the Prime Minister visits a crisis, he doesn’t come alone, he brings an entourage of officals, specialists, and assistance.

“The presence of the Prime Minister adds to the urgency and crisis, telling all involved they will be held accountable - it’s called leadership not sparing in my criticism.

“The opposition is meant to be a Government in waiting, and while we lack power, we hold influence and can set an agenda.

“I would have liked to have our leader on the ground to set the agenda and give Storm Arwen and the incompetent response the national attention it requires.”

Mr Morris said he will be writing to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, asking him to support calls for a public inquiry.

“We will get to test the North-South divide in the days and weeks ahead.

“If the power was out in the capital and people were left without support and assistance for a week and counting, a public inquiry would follow for the residents of Westminister, Kensington and Chelsea.

“Just because the storm and prolonged power outage happened to the residents of Peterlee, Easington, Bishop Auckland and Weardale doesn’t mean they do not deserve the same respect and consideration from Government.”

Mr Morris added: “A public inquiry into a national crisis where there have been systemic failures is the bare minimum if all the hand wringing about ‘learning lessons’ is to have any real substance.”

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