Downing Street has admitted that Boris Johnson will not work on his holiday unless he is urgently needed, after he faced criticism for taking another break abroad within three weeks amid the energy crisis.
Johnson is believed to be in Greece with his family, despite having just three weeks left in the job amid accusations he is leading a “zombie” government.
In his absence, two large moving vans turned up in Downing Street on Monday, fueling expectations that he is likely to spend a little longer in No 10. The Prime Minister is entitled to take with him furniture and equipment that he paid for in his renovation of his Apartment No. 11, theoretically including the Lulu Lytle gold tapestry originally funded by a Tory donor.
Brandon Lewis, a senior Conservative MP, defended the Prime Minister’s decision to take another holiday, following his first break in Slovenia.
“Even when you’re not in the office in Downing Street, you’re working,” Brandon Lewis, who was Northern Ireland Secretary before resigning last month, told LBC.
However, Johnson’s official spokesman clarified that he would not be doing routine work as he was “on leave” and would only be contacted if there were “urgent decisions” to be made.
“As with Prime Ministers as you know, by virtue of their role they will obviously be kept informed of all pressing issues and make decisions, especially those [related to] national security for example, he said. “If there were urgent decisions that required the Prime Minister’s input, of course he will be involved in that.”
He said there were no major meetings planned this week that would require Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, to deputize.
No 10 is not commenting on the prime minister’s exact whereabouts, but he has been seen with his wife, Carrie, in a supermarket in Nea Makri, a town east of Athens. A week ago, Johnson returned from another holiday, in Slovenia.
While Johnson’s caretaker role during the period when his successor is chosen limits his ability to make new policies, he has been accused of leading a zombie government and of spending his final weeks in office relaxing.
When not abroad, Johnson has been spending time at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, and he and Carrie hosted a belated party for their wedding at the Cotswolds home of JCB owner Anthony Bamford, a major Conservative donor.
Asked on LBC whether the Prime Minister had “thrown in the towel”, Lewis rejected the characterization.
“He’s probably in his second week [of] vacation in the last year or so, certainly this year,” Lewis said. “So while someone is gone, whether they’re the foreign secretary or let alone the prime minister, they’ll continue to work.
“I can assure you that he will still go through inboxes, he will still deal with national security issues where relevant. Being out of the country does not mean that the prime minister stops working.”
Unveiling Labour’s plan on Monday to help households this winter by stopping any rise in the energy price cap, to be partly funded by a wider tax windfall, Keir Starmer called Johnson a “lame duck” and said the hopefuls to succeeding him, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak “wrangled” instead of presenting a plan of action.
A Labor spokesman said: “On the evidence of recent months it seems to make little difference whether the Prime Minister is in office or on holiday as he has consistently failed to meet the challenge of the Tory cost of living crisis. It’s all just one big party for Boris Johnson while the country struggles to pay their bills.”