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5 February 2009

It’s the Russians wot did it . . .

By Aloysius McDowell

You would have thought it had been raining fish, or frogs, or perhaps men, given the scale of the chaos created by the past week’s weather – and the scale of the reaction to it. As a few inches of snow brought much of the country to a standstill, newspapers devoted many pages to everything from the cost for business to the art of creating a perfect snowball.

One broadsheet even offered its online readers the tempting opportunity to “discuss the weather with us – live”. Even the New York Times, based in a city where winter temperatures frequently drop below -10° without the place grinding to a halt, managed to be sympathetic.

The British public, faced with clogged roads, nationwide school closures and public transport chaos, has been rather less understanding, blaming local councils and the Highways Agency for being ill-prepared. Yet we are not the only ones engaged in the satisfying, if largely pointless, hunt for a scapegoat. The Highways Agency has in turn blamed the people – in particular those of us who drive lorries – for failing to follow advice and stay off the roads. And Ken Livingstone, true to form, blamed Boris Johnson for London’s paralysis.

Boris, with customary flourish, has picked on a higher-ranking authority, appealing to “the heavens” to stop the onslaught. But the most unlikely choice of whipping boy comes courtesy of the Daily Mirror, which claims that “we have Russia to thank” for the cold snap.

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