Leader comment: Blitz spirit helps tame the Beast from the East

The Beast from the East showed its fangs yesterday, causing widespread disruption and sparking warnings that the heavy snow posed a risk to life.
The Beast from the East has caused transport chaos (Picture: Ian Rutherford)The Beast from the East has caused transport chaos (Picture: Ian Rutherford)
The Beast from the East has caused transport chaos (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

Schools closed, hospital operations were postponed, planes, trains and buses were cancelled and delayed, there were numerous reports of stranded travellers, and hundreds of road accidents.

And there is more to come. The blast of Siberian weather was expected to collide with Storm Emma today, bringing further falls of snow and sleet along with gale-force winds.

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But, amid this ferocious assault by the weather, there were some much-needed heart-warming tales.

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Staff battling through the conditions to make it into work, churches and hotels opening their doors to people with nowhere to stay, and displays of ‘Blitz spirit’ among train passengers caught up in long delays.

Rather than getting too worked up by the sight of snow inside a sleeper train to Edinburgh, it was used to build a snowman.

One Lothian Buses worker, who lives in Selkirk, set off to walk the six miles to Galashiels train station to make it into work, but ended up being given a lift by a passing motorist and arrived three hours early for his shift. And Stobo Castle near Peebles offered to put guests up for free for an extra night so they did not have to risk the treacherous conditions.

The worst of times has a tendency to bring out the best in some people; finding a way to make this the norm could create a powerful force for good. David Cameron tried to do this during his time in Downing Street. In a speech in Liverpool in 2010, just two months after he became Prime Minister, he said that his “great passion” was creating a “Big Society”. It was a nice idea, but eight years later there are few signs of a significant transformation.

His version of the Big Society may not have been to everyone’s liking, but building a kinder, more caring Britain where people will go an extra mile for one another should remain an aspiration of everyone in politics.

And we may require some old-fashioned Blitz spirit sooner than later. The Beast from the East galvanised some to display it, but a storm of a different kind – Brexit – is coming. If forecasters’ warnings of a multi-billion-pound hit to the economy prove correct, we will all need to pull together.