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Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Boris Johnson’s West Country visit not a holiday, No 10 says

Boris Johnson’s West Country visit not a holiday, No 10 says

Spokesman says PM ‘continuing to work’ after he was criticised for earlier break during Afghan crisis
Boris Johnson returned to the West Country on Sunday to spend several days with his family but Downing Street has said it is not a holiday and that he is “continuing to work”.

In a briefing to journalists, the prime minister’s official spokesman said Johnson had travelled to the west of England on Sunday, and would be returning to No 10 on Thursday.

Asked repeatedly if the short break from Downing Street was a holiday, the spokesman said it was not. “He’s away from the office, but he’s still working,” he said.

The prime minister had previously been criticised for deciding to head off on holiday in Somerset on Saturday 14 August, despite the perilous situation in Afghanistan, with the Taliban advancing rapidly.

Johnson was forced to cut short that break after just a day, being pictured at Taunton station with aides on 15 August, before chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee back in Downing Street later that day.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, also came under attack for choosing to go ahead with a holiday in Crete, before returning to tackle the crisis.

Pressed on whether Johnson had felt free to leave his desk once the last UK personnel had been evacuated from Kabul on Sunday, his spokesman said: “I wouldn’t get into what dictates the prime minister’s diary”.

He repeated his insistence that the prime minister has “full confidence,” in Raab, who faces a grilling before members of the cross-party foreign affairs select committee on Wednesday about his role in the Kabul airlift.

Johnson was last seen publicly in a video message recorded in Downing Street and published on Sunday, in which he thanked British troops for their “heroic” efforts in Afghanistan.

The prime minister recalled MPs to Westminster earlier this month to update them on the evacuation, and faced harsh criticism from senior backbenchers in his party about failures of intelligence, strategy and planning.

Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, challenged him, saying: “Did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer it would be all right on the night?”

Johnson faces a series of pressing challenges in the weeks ahead, including whether to announce plans for a manifesto-busting tax increase to fund the NHS and social care.

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