It is fair to say that Boris Johnson has not been in receipt of universal sympathy for having had to cut short his family holiday to Scotland after the location was leaked to the press.
Beyond those spiteful souls who simply enjoy seeing misfortunes inflicted on the other side, there are plenty of commentators asking why the Prime Minister was on holiday at all. Doesn’t he know there’s a crisis?
The idea that Johnson ought to be personally helming the Government’s response to the A Levels fiasco (although how hard is it to raise a white flag) fits into a broader critique of his alleged ‘Chairman Boris’ leadership style.
Such an attitude seems short-sighted. Important although the Prime Minister undoubtedly is, the Government really ought to be able to tick over for a couple of weeks in his absence – especially if he remains on hand to make important political judgements, as he did when signing off on Gavin Williamson’s u-turn.
Moreover, if Johnson really is that essential then making sure he has the chance to get away for a bit becomes more important, not less. He is serving in an extremely responsible role at a time of national crisis, and much hinges on the judgement calls only he can make. Trapping the Prime Minister in Westminster and burning him out is not likely conducive to getting his best work in the long term.
It also sends a toxic message downstream into political culture. If we don’t allow politicians space to holiday in peace, what can already be a fairly trying job becomes just that bit more unsustainable. Expect more people to sit in Parliament for only a couple of terms before seeking gentler pastures elsewhere. Considering the concerns over a weak Cabinet and inexperienced whips’ office, is that really a trend we wish to exacerbate?
Johnson deserves a holiday. On a human level, he’s a new father who has only recently fought off a life-threatening illness. On the institutional level, his treatment sets the tone for much of British politics. Love him or loathe him, give him a break.