Earlier this week, the right-wing British tabloid the Daily Mail launched a campaign for the government to divert cash  from the foreign aid budget to help victims of the catastrophic floods wreaking havoc in southern England and Wales.

Populist campaigns are nothing new for the Mail, and this one – which attracted more than 100,000 signatures in 48 hours – followed a similar call by populist right-winger Nigel Farage, whose small UK Independence Party (UKIP) wants Britain to quit the European Union and who enjoys thinking up fringe policies which irritate the ruling Conservatives.

The Mail campaign, though hardly surprising, did stir debate about the contentious issue of Britain’s foreign aid. It also brought to light questions such as why the UK has not applied for cash from the EU Solidarity Fund, set up precisely to help member states tackle natural disasters, and facts such as that we spend more on fizzy drinks than overseas aid.

The Daily Express, an iconoclastic tabloid, also backed Farage’s proposal, which garnered quite a bit of public support given the hundreds of homes evacuated, shops flooded, farmland submerged during the wettest January in nearly 250 years.

The Express, arguing that Britons always help out when disaster strikes other parts of the world, asked how much aid money is spent on dubious programmes like one in Kenya which funds “tribal rainmakers to come up with a “consensus weather forecast” with that country’s Meteorological Office.”