Confusion reigns over whether or not the prime minister is currently on holiday in the west of England with his latest family.
According to a Number 10 spokesperson, he is definitely not on holiday and is “continuing to work”. Whether or not this is government work was not specified.
Perhaps he is labouring at his magnum opus on Shakespeare. This is now long overdue, despite the Prime Minister missing key COBRA meetings at the start of the pandemic in order to “work” on the book at Chequers, and he must be getting worried about having to pay back the publisher’s advance – reportedly £98,000.
Or perhaps he is making a working visit to Cornwall, liaising with local public health teams there who are now dealing with the highest Covid rates in Europe. It’s now clear that the Boardmasters music festival in Newquay a couple of weeks ago was a superspreader event on an epic scale, and it seems to have spawned an interesting new sub-variant of the Delta variant that Johnson’s government allowed to enter the country and proliferate back in May.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske is under intense pressure, as is Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, and the Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, Cherilyn Mackrory, recently announced that she and her fellow MPs in Cornwall have succeeded in persuading the government to make both Cornwall and Devon an “enhanced support area”.
It is far from clear what this “enhanced support” will mean in practice, when it will materialise or whether this might include a fact-finding visit by Boris Johnson. Given that the prime minister appears intensely relaxed at the continued spread of the virus, this appears unlikely.
If he is indeed on holiday, and if this is in Cornwall, this may not go down well with locals, and particularly not if he has chosen one of the Duchy’s more popular holiday destinations. Last week the head of Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell, said we had witnessed “too many occurrences of overcrowding” at “honeypot” locations, and urged visitors to consider visiting “less popular parts of Cornwall”.
Could Johnson have taken this advice and now perhaps be installed at the Camborne/Redruth Travelodge off the A30? Given his track record of luxury holidays, this does not seem probable. He is much more likely to be in a well-appointed seaside holiday home loaned by a donor to the Conservative Party.
One can only hope that he does not find the sea to be “closed”, as the hapless Dominic Raab maintained it was at the Cretan luxury resort where he relaxed while Kabul fell to the Taliban. (Local hoteliers and meteorologists declared themselves baffled by Raab’s assertion.)
An air of mystery has surrounded several of the prime minister’s previous recreational jaunts, not least his two-week stay on Caribbean Island of Mustique shortly after becoming prime minister. There was also considerable confusion over who exactly had paid for his luxury villa on the island, and whether or not this was David Ross, the proprietor of Carphone Warehouse.
In an entirely unconnected development a few months later, Ross was appointed chair of the Royal Opera House.
Then there are the visits to the Umbrian castle owned by Johnson’s recently ennobled Russian crony Evgeny Lebedev, the newspaper proprietor who is also the son of a senior KGB officer. When he was Foreign Secretary, Johnson is known to have dismissed his security detail in order to attend a bacchanalian event there – described by some as a ‘bunga-bunga party’ – and was photographed looking much the worse for wear while awaiting his return flight from Pisa.
No doubt more light will soon be shed on Johnson’s West Country break. Most probably it will turn to be “not a holiday” in the same sense as the border in the Irish Sea is “not a border”, Priti Patel is “not a bully” and Dominic Raab is “not a disgrace to the office of Foreign Secretary”.
What is certain is that Boris Johnson, whatever his official status, is not a prime minister.