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Robert Sutcliffe: the politics of a family holiday

I always thought that Cameron’s claim to be in “this together” was ludicrously misplaced given that he is a multi-millionaire and by birth and breeding probably the last person to be in it ‘together’

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha stop for a drink by a beach during their holiday on the Spanish island of Lanzarote in Teguise

Relaxing and enjoying yourself in this country can be a dangerous business.

Particularly if you are a politician. And as the summer holidays approach, Prime Ministers have to exercise extraordinary care in how and where they take theirs.

Inevitably some crisis breaks out just a couple of days after the wretched man has landed in some far-flung part of the world and has to be hauled back.

Even worse is the jarring accusation that he is busy sunning himself and living it up in some luxurious hideout while the poor, hard-pressed taxpayer is dealing with the aftermath of floods or some other horrendous ordeal.

Basically, people like David Cameron take holidays at their peril.

Last year the class-obsessed Daily Mirror complained that he had taken his wife and three children on their fourth, yes fourth! holiday of the year.

The paper bellowed that while Mr Smug was “wearing flip-flops and his favourite blue polo shirt and soaking up the sunshine” in a Cornish resort, the rest of us were dealing “with a jobless total of 2.5 million and the NHS was in crisis.”

Clearly, the paper sniped: “We are not in this together.”

I always thought that Cameron’s claim to be in “this together” was ludicrously misplaced given that he is a multi-millionaire and by birth and breeding probably the last person to be in it ‘together’.

And politics and newspapers being the fickle beasts they are, there would probably be an outcry if Mr Cameron decided not to go on any holiday at all with suitable ‘reverse ferret’ headlines demanding he get a break and a plethora of patronising articles explaining why a Prime Minister who remained chained to his desk was a bad idea ...

And, of course, it’s not just Tory Prime Ministers who get it in the neck over their choice of holidays.

One of the annual events I used to look forward to was the inevitable flood of articles complaining about Tony Blair hawking himself and his family around the globe staying in the Caribbean homes of faded pop stars such as Sir Cliff Richard.

Alexander Chancellor is a very entertaining writer but he managed to excel himself in 2004 in The Guardian with his pique by going to the lengths of imagining himself in Blair’s youngest son, little Leo’s tiny shoes.

He complained that “this hopping about in aeroplanes can’t be much fun for Leo who would presumably prefer to stay in one place with his bucket and spade.

“But the little fellow has no choice in the matter, for his father has his status to maintain as an international jetsetter with lots of glamorous and important friends.”

And there was the time long ago during the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001 when poor Mr Blair, then in his Tuscany phase, who was forced to stay in England rather than risk a rash of uncomplimentary headlines by taking his family abroad.

Curiously, some Prime Ministers seemed to escape almost entirely the opprobrium dished out for holiday taking.

I can’t remember much fuss about Margaret Thatcher’s breaks in Switzerland, probably because most of us correctly divined she would be far happier back at her desk terrorising officials.

Ditto John Major about whose holiday arrangements I can remember nothing whatsoever.

Oh for the days, eh, when Clement Attlee used to take his holidays on some beach in Wales and enjoy a game of cricket with his family.

Or, even better, Enoch Powell, who used to take his family to Normandy where they would enjoy visiting churches and take brass rubbings.

 

 

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