At a time when the UK is grappling with multiple crises, including historic inflation and drought, outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken his second furlough in two weeks, enough to stoke accusations of a power vacuum as he awaits his successor.
In recent weeks, the Tory leader, who has been urged to resign by his party after a spate of scandals, has missed emergency meetings during heat waves, stayed away from the England team’s celebrations at the European Women’s Football Championship and spent a couple of honeymoons in the mountains of Slovenia.
This time he was photographed with his wife Carrie in a supermarket in a suburb of Athens while a removals van was parked outside his home at 10 Downing Street on Monday.
“The prime minister is on holiday this week,” his spokesman said, stressing that even in their absence, leaders “are staying informed of all urgent matters and making decisions, particularly on national security matters.”
His successor announced in September
This escapade comes as Boris Johnson has vowed to remain in business pending the appointment of a new Conservative Party leader. Only two candidates remain in the running, Liz Truss, chief of diplomacy, favorite, and former finance minister Rishi Sunak. The result of the internal election is expected on September 5th.
Voices have been raised in the British political class to accuse Boris Johnson of being absent at a time when his compatriots are suffering from very sharp increases in the cost of living, particularly with electricity and gas prices exploding.
Forecasts of further massive bill hikes in October and then January, and the central bank’s warning of the extent of the impending crisis for the UK economy, have called for urgent action without waiting for his successor to arrive. Downing Street said last week it was up to the “future Prime Minister” to act in the face of this crisis, not Johnson, who should be in charge of current affairs.
The country is also facing a historic drought that is hitting the agricultural sector hard and necessitating irrigation restrictions in several regions. The Labor Party estimated that “the party goes on for Boris Johnson at a time when the whole country is struggling to pay its bills”.
“Judging from the past few months, it doesn’t matter much whether the prime minister is at work or on holiday as he has not been up to the challenge of the Conservative Party’s living standards crisis,” a left-wing opposition spokesman said.
However, Labor itself has been criticized for its alleged passivity in the face of the crisis, as its leader Keir Starmer was on holiday last week and only presented his party’s proposals, including a freeze on gas and electricity prices, on Monday.
He “didn’t throw in the towel”
For Brandon Lewis, Johnson’s ex-minister, the latter has not yet “thrown in the towel”: “It’s probably his second holiday week in a year, and certainly this year (…) even though we’re not in the Downing Street office, we’re working “.
According to The Times newspaper, Johnson intends to make “a series of visits and speeches” after his return next weekend to urge his successor to continue defending his priorities, including the UK’s support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s Invasion. And he intends to remain present in the public debate despite the planned parliamentary inquiry into his stance during ‘Partygate’, those parties at Downing Street during detention which hastened his departure.
The former Mayor of London remains more popular in his party than the two candidates to succeed him, according to some polls, and the media is speculating about a desire to return to power.