When a Prime Minister, who’s presided over years of spending cuts, announces “money is no object”, you know something is up.
While for many the floods are a personal crisis, for David Cameron it’s a political one — and exactly the type of crisis that can destroy a Prime Minister’s career.
So, a visit to the Middle East is off, and a Prime Minister who’s shown little fondness for news conferences decides to face the press, hoping to provide a reassuring sight on the evening news, the message — your government is in control.
It’s bad luck for Mr Cameron that the heavens opened over traditional Tory territory — the very constituencies he needs to tie up if he’s to win next year’s General Election.
Hence a growing sense of panic in Downing Street as the floods got steadily worse — the fear that the Tories’ electoral prospects could be, well, washed away.
Last week it seemed government ministers were chiefly busy making sure any blame for a slow response, or failure to prepare, ended up on the desk of Environment Agency boss Lord Smith.
But Eric Pickles’ carefully constructed TV apology (we’re sorry we ever listened to those idiots at the Environment Agency) didn’t do much to reassure voters busy filling sandbags and moving their furniture upstairs.
David Cameron’s realised, perhaps a few days too late, that this is a key test of his leadership. The Prime Minister can’t stop it raining, but he can be blamed for perceived failures to help people in a crisis — and people who’ve lost their homes and possessions tend to have long memories.
At the back of his mind will be the fuel protests in 2000, when Tony Blair looked perilously close to ceding control of the country to protestors.
Then, a Prime Ministerial news conference — and a promise to restore order — was designed to restore his leadership. David Cameron is hoping to do the same.
For now, Labour’s reluctant to get stuck into the Conservatives on this — voters may not look kindly on another political scrap, thinking there are more important things going on.
Equally, those same voters will at some stage be looking for someone to blame. David Cameron’s move is designed to make sure they don’t blame him — or his party.
Money can’t soak up the flood water, but it might absorb some of that anger.