Boris Johnson is facing backlash for taking a holiday while the UK faces economic turmoil, prompting comparisons to another prime minister who was notably absent as the country faced collapse .
Amid warnings on Thursday of inflation still rising to 13% and the economy entering the longest recession since the financial crisis, the prime minister was reportedly in Slovenia on a mini-moon with his wife Carrie after a late wedding celebration last weekend.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi was also taking a vacation as the Bank of England detailed the brutal outlook and hiked interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%, the biggest rise in 27 years.
Missing in action, The Mirror thundered, amid a series of negative headlines on Friday morning.
But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng appeared extremely relaxed that his boss was traveling overseas during the media tour on Friday.
On Times Radio, Kwarteng said he didn’t know Johnson’s whereabouts, adding: He just got married, I think he’s on his honeymoon and… I don’t think a lot of people will blame him.
But given that this isn’t the first time Johnson has been MIA since being ousted by his own MPs, you could be forgiven for thinking Johnson is less of a caretaker prime minister and more of a laid-back entertainer.
One phrase in particular emerged: Crisis? What crisis?
So where do these three words familiar to most A-level politics students come from?
On January 10, 1979, then Labor Prime Minister James Callaghan landed at Heathrow Airport after an international summit on the sunny French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
The conference was all about business. French President Valry Giscard d’Estaing hosted the meeting, which was also attended by US President Jimmy Carter and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. But the images showing Callaghan wearing a swimsuit on the beach and walking with his wife Audrey during a brief break before the summit did not look good.
Back in snow-capped Britain, the Winter of Discontent was brewing, with water workers, paramedics, sewer workers and garbage collectors embroiled in widespread industrial unrest.
Holding a press conference at the airport upon his return, Callaghan told reporters he would not declare a state of emergency and dismissed suggestions the country was facing in chaos. He said: I promise if you look at it from the outside, I don’t think other people in the world would share the view that chaos is rising.
The Sun newspaper notoriously misrepresented Callaghans’ response to the reporters’ question under the front-page headline: Crisis? What Crisis? The intro read: Tanned Prime Minister Jim Callaghan flew back to Britain yesterday and asked: Crisis? What Crisis?
In footnote: Crisis? What Crisis? was the name of a 1975 album by rock band Supertramp, and in turn was a line in the 1973 film The day of the jackal. In any case, it has now become synonymous with nonchalance in the face of disruption.
The parallels between the inflation surge of 2022 and 1979, political turmoil, economic uncertainty and industrial unrest have been apparent for some time. But while Callaghan’s apocryphal words helped bring down his Labor government that year, Johnson has already been removed from office.
If Johnson comes back with a tan, it will no longer tarnish his reputation. However, his successor is unlikely to ask to see his holiday snaps.
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