Is there ever a good time for a world leader to go on holiday?

Boris Johnson has been scrutinised for his decision to go on holiday in the midst of several crises. Is there ever a good time for a world leader to go on holiday?

Emily Kelso
21st October 2021
Image Credit: flickr (image shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a briefing)
It has been a turbulent time in the political world recently: the energy crisis causing a 12% rise in energy bills for 15 million households according to the BBC; a damning report about the handling of the COVID-19 report written by MPs; continuing concerns over lorry drivers and anticipated Christmas shortages. It seems like all hands on deck for the government right now, but where has Johnson been throughout this? A luxury villa in Spain with his family, on holiday.

Johnson's trip with his family has caused enough of a stir for ministers to publicly defend the trip. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng publicly defended the break as justifiable on the grounds of Johnson’s encounter with Covid-19 and recent loss of his mother. Nobody can deny that world leaders should go without breaks, especially since their role is to ensure the smooth running of the country. For some, a holiday is a stay at a military installation/country retreat, for others it is a walking holiday in Wales. The issue is not the nature of the holiday, the crux of the matter is the timing.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner's tweet about Johnson's holiday

It could be argued it is impossible for world leaders to have a holiday at a good time, and that they are capable of fulfilling their role remotely in the event of a worsening crisis instead of just returning home. That has certainly been made clear in this instance, with the Business Secretary pointing out how he was in contact with the PM via WhatsApp, although what specifically about was not said. The decision to remain on holiday but in contact with colleagues back home seems like an uncomfortable middle ground which fails to meet either the relaxing or work element; one cannot fully rest on holiday if they have to anticipate texts all the time, but equally the media attention given to Johnson’s absence despite reassurances from government officials shows how the public will not believe Johnson is working until he returns home. Staying on holiday in the wake of a worsening crisis is also not a good career move, as shown by the criticism expressed over Raab not returning from holiday whilst the Afghan crisis continued.

What is apparent is that there is rarely a good time to go on holiday, and perhaps an opportunity should be seized for a rest even during a minor crisis. This should not extend to senior governmental officials or world leaders holidaying during a period of several crises however, and choosing to remain on holiday even when the situation worsens. In this instance, Johnson chose to do so and has come off worse for it in the media.

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AUTHOR: Emily Kelso
Third year History and Archaeology student. Also a Comment Sub-Editor.

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