Holidays abroad

I consider it my patriotic duty to find a destination as sunny and foreign as possible.

Well, my friends, it’s been nice knowing you. I like to think this column has acquired a reputation for daring. I flatter myself that I have occasionally blurted truths that more tactful and successful politicians have avoided.

Today, however, I feel driven to make an admission so provocative that it may well terminate my career. It is now getting on for the end of July. The hols are upon us; my wife is urging me to make a booking – and I tell you what, I simply can’t stand all this humbug about our duty to holiday in the UK.

So let me lay it on the line. Some time before the end of August, I will grab a week’s leave, like a half-starved sealion snatching an airborne mackerel, and whatever happens that leave will not be taken in some boarding-house in Eastbourne. It will not take place in Cornwall or Scotland or the Norfolk Broads. I say stuff Skegness. I say bugger Bognor.

I am going to take a holiday abroad, and in my view it would be absurd, hypocritical and frankly inhumane to do anything else – and here’s why. There is ample precedent for the Mayor of London to fly off and fill the upper air with his vapour trails. It wasn’t long ago that I met a very nice woman who specialises in catering for top-end villa parties in Corfu. Guess who she had cooked for one year, she said: Red Ken himself!

And she described the lavish repasts of Livingstone the Marxist burgermeister, and the way he blended in with his fellow holidaymakers, clinking round the local offie with his string vest and yellow bermudas; and don’t for one minute think I reproach my friend Ken. I congratulate him. I approve of his exuberantly bourgeois desire to bunk off to the Med in the maximum possible luxury; and in case anybody is disposed to give him stick, I would remind them that Ken the socialist sunseeker was only following the pattern of other British leaders.

When Stanley Baldwin was prime minister he went off to Aix-les-Bains for much of August and September, and throughout his vacation he never even opened an English newspaper.

As for Winston Churchill, who provides the heroic template for all aspirant British politicians, he showed quite stunning sangfroid. In the summer of 1910, when he had just been made home secretary, he was sufficiently self-confident to go on a Mediterranean cruise. The boat went to Monte Carlo. It went to Greece. It went to Turkey – but the most important fact was that the boat chugged sybaritically around the Med for six weeks.

Consider the issues piling up in his in-tray: prison reform, immigration, gambling, drugs, children in care, the death penalty, the regulation of hours of work and safety in mines, and whether or not to give women the vote; and yet Winston Churchill managed to leave it all behind him for six whole weeks, without so much as a mobile phone to connect him with his office, let alone the tyranny of the BlackBerry.

Was Churchill any the less effective as a home secretary? Was Britain less well governed? Was there any disservice done to the British Empire, which then spanned much of the globe, simply because a senior cabinet minister was not jabbering away over the ether to his officials?

Of course not; and I say this with a certain bitterness because in early May I was fleetingly on a Turkish boat myself. It was half-term, and I had been campaigning solidly for about nine months. Roughly every half-hour I would check to see whether one of my electronic devices had registered some important text, email or phone call; and yet I came back to London to find that I had been attacked by the Daily Mail not just for the unflattering cut and colour of my bathing trunks, which they photographed, but for taking a holiday at all.

It struck me as a bit much, frankly; and when we consider the holiday plans of poor Gordon Brown we can see how this attitude – this indignant finger-wagging at politicians’ foreign holidays – is actually doing the country no good at all.

The Prime Minister is plainly exhausted. He has run out of steam; his government has run out of money. His poll ratings are so bad that some have claimed he may even lose a Glasgow seat to the SNP, in which case he will have run out of road. He badly needs to go away and recharge his batteries, and yet he intends to travel no further than Southwold in Suffolk, and we all know what will happen then.

He will have about four hours’ holiday, gnawing at his nails and staring at the drizzle, and then some “crisis” will compel him to return to Downing Street, just as he returned last year from Dorset to take charge of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. If he wants to recover in the polls, then he must swallow his inhibitions along with his fingernails, and get away somewhere hot.

Look at Tony Blair, one of the most successful prime ministers since the war, and a man whose approach to foreign holidays was utterly shameless. He scrounged, he ligged, he bummed his breaks from all manner of tycoons, and what harm did it do him?

If anything, the electorate seems rather to have approved of his determination to get the best deal for himself and his family in Barbados, the Seychelles and, of course, in the Tuscan palazzo of Count Girolamo Strozzi where he forged one of New Labour’s few hard-edged ideological positions: he was pro-sciutto and anti-pasto.

He was right to love the Mediterranean, because whatever the wonders of the British coast there will not be many UK beaches this summer where you can drink a bottle of wine in the sun and then go for an hour-long swim.

As I prepare for my last-minute booking, I consider it my patriotic duty to find a destination as sunny and foreign as possible, so that I can push some cash towards hard-pressed UK travel agents, and so that we minimise, on compassionate grounds, the number of British citizens exposed to the sight of my swimming trunks.

[First published in the Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2008]

41 thoughts on “Holidays abroad”

  1. Tut tut, Boris. “There will not be many UK beaches this summer where you can drink a bottle of wine in the sun…” Would that be the whole bottle or just the regulation three units?

    Why not go the whole hog and admit you might have a Castella after dinner? If so, I recommend you stay in England where you can enjoy the adventure of being wrestled to the ground and charged by the smoking police. The rest of Europe does not offer such excitement.

  2. Whilst looking for something else I noticed this.

    Absolutely right! Long live freedom of choice!

    Best regards,

    Steve Paine

  3. Wish you a wonderful vacation and recuperation abroad. Nice to read that you’re not tending towards those green fundamentalists who stay in rainy central Europe for holidays and taking the plane only to attend the world social forum in Brazil. πŸ˜‰ Greetz from Germany!

  4. Boris, you know that the best use for a Blackberry when on holiday is as an emergency weight on the end of an improvised fishing line for one of your younger family members. Can those things play music to charm the supper to the barbecue? If so, it may be worth packing one. Otherwise, forget it!

  5. Everyone deserves a break to revive the soul. I hope you and your family have a wonderful time.

  6. Yeah! Boris is coming to the Continent!

    And lo and behold, it’s bucketing down all over the place! Spare us from your swimming trunks! Your umbrella will do πŸ˜€

  7. Totally agree with this article. Brighton and Norfolk are great for a long weekend, but a proper holiday is abroad. Budapest is fab. Balint! I just loved it, particularly the flea markets crammed with Nazi uniforms, and luger pistols. The Danube, the great food, and you can pose around in dark glasses, clutching a glass of Bulls Blood, imagining yourself in foreign movie. Holland is fantastic, I am half Dutch, so love tulips, blue china, Dutch cheese, and my huge bum fits right in with the locals.

    Surely it is the duty of the Mayor of London to travel abroad and by his very presence, do some much needed P.R. for London? He can chat about our wonderful buses and our unsurpassed historical views, dazzle the French with his knowledge of their language and stun the Italians with his flowered knee length M & S. Bermudas and his four lively bambinos…..

    I bet Ken is interesting on holiday. Chats away about the mating habits of newts (they become sexually mature after 3 years) and how the great crested newt is threatened with extinction in Scotland,

    (I had never seen a picture of a newt, so give a link above if anyone is interested.)

  8. I totally agree with your sentiments and good luck to you and your family. Here’s my two pennyworth. Given that you have a penchant for two wheels and are a supporter of all (most?) things green and healthy might I suggest a cycling holiday (mainly downhill, of course)in the sunshine of the stunning Austrian Alps. I was also pleased that you acknowledge the need travel companies currently have for customers. Any encouragement which celebrities and people of influence can bring to our industry is to be applauded.
    Here’s hoping the Johnson family and any others might choose a late summer or Autumn Freewheel Cycling holiday. We’re on 0845 372 0315. To clinch the deal they might like to know we currently have an enticing wine offer running…!”

  9. Go for it Boris. I want a mayor who will be refreshed to tackle London’s real problems after the August holiday period not some poor sod who has been attached at the navel by the Blackberry umbilical cord and before he can hardly have a sip of chardonnay on the banks of the Southwold sewer farm gets interrupted by a minion wondering on which side he should part his hair. But do please put a cut out of yourself at City Hall so Ken can sit and whine at it and keep off the streets.

  10. “and so that we minimise, on compassionate grounds, the number of British citizens exposed to the sight of my swimming trunks.”

    I suggest Turkey is most favourable destination – since people here wouldn’t mind if you look like monkey – they are always interested in you – at any age with any appearnce. Only a living creature that smells will do!

  11. If anyone missed the webcam of Mayors Question Time of 16th July with the London Assembly, it is on Freeview, British Parliament tonight, at 8.40 pm.

  12. ps. I was only joking about the Mayor doing PR abroad. MPs and the Mayor work very hard and deserve family time. When Gordon Brown cuts short his holiday, what about his poor wife and kids? How important is he making them feel, when he races back after 2 days, implying his colleagues and staff are pants and can’t manage without him?

    I hope the Mayor takes a month off to be with his family and hopefully Gordon will do that as well.

  13. Boris – have a great holiday – just don’t have a big up meet you off the ‘plane and then charge up the whole holiday to expenses i.e. me! fw

  14. Boris, you know wherever you go, even in darkest africa or the depths of a south american jungle you will stumble on someone from the UK shouting ‘oi Boris!’

    Happy holidays.

  15. But surely it is possible to enjoy a holiday in this country, doesn’t rely on the weather, but stunning countryside, no airport queues, no language problems, and just relaxing! Come to Warwickshire and try a canal holiday!

  16. You’ve covered your bases Boris, go for it.
    How ridiculous of the Daily Mail to print such rubbish!
    Sport the shorts Boris (golly, were they that bad?)
    Have a good break Boris,

    (and please answer my last comment when you get a chance between pina coladas)

  17. Lots of Boris’s supporters complained to the Daily Mail that the paper was being unreasonable because Boris had campaigned 7 days a week for months, so was entitled to spend a break with his family. MPs who don’t spend time with their children and are not good fathers under the mistaken impression that their jobs should come first, find that eventually, their children are swelling the crime figures, which is terribly sad. When criticised for taking time off, i would like to hear an MP speak up vigorously that they believe it is of huge importance to spend time with their kids. Why should they suffer in silence?

    In the end, even the leftie websites admitted they had been wrong to criticise. Mayorwatch said campaigning is very hard, so the b reak was justified. Dave Hill had always said Boris was entitled to a break, and even Tory Troll showed he had a heart and said he had been too hasty! Peter Oborne of the Mail often writes supportive articles about BJ and DC, so we will let him off and I know for a fact, he had several letters of complaint.

  18. Maybe there is something wrong with me ! I am stunned to see how people can be so intrusive ! This is your private affair! Have a great ESCAPE !

  19. i might b wrong about this but i have heard that david cameron himself has holidayed in england!so what u r saying is that blair, a LABOUR leader, is better than cameron, a CONSERVATIVE leader! ur a great mayor, boris, but to become better u need 2 brush up ur articles.

  20. Exactly Mr. Researcher. Once you are in the public eye, people seem to think they can poke their noses into whatever you do. They analyse your body language, so if you sneeze that means you are suffering from egomania, criticise your haircut – long, you are irresponsible, short, it is a strimmer cut and you look like either a child or a bank manager. ( Rod Liddle described David Cameron as effete the other day, he will definitely get a smack in the mouth for that, excellent.) They want to tell you what to wear, where to go on holiday, if you should go on holiday, who your friends should be, you have to be on the job 24/7… how anyone can stand being an MP or in government or London Mayor beats me.

  21. Spot on,Boris. The only place i would not holiday in the UK would be London, an expensive, arrogant, second rate capital city where I had the misfortune to be born and to work for many years before having the opportunity to escape.

  22. Stay away as long as you like, and dont give interviews to foreign press are not the best example of a typical Englishman and will only make us more of a laughing stock as we already are in Europe.n.b.keep your trunks on!

  23. Hi Bob, when Mayor Johnson won the election, the Parisians were raving about his brains, charm and libertarian politics. He also got rave reviews in the US, so your worries are unfounded.

  24. Nice to see a politician taking a trip abroad that isn’t being funded by the taxpayer.

    Have a great time Boris and when you com back, keep up the good work!

  25. Go Boris go! your the perfect mayor for Labour!oh and all seaside B&Bs………………..

  26. Well now – do we not expect and enjoy, nay rely on revenue from Tourists – perhaps Mr Brooown has not worked out that they have risked going abroad for a holiday – in fact thinking about it further why has he not popped back to his true Fartherland and checked on the state of Haggis export!

  27. Well Angela the La Belle France can have him! He is quite a lot like DeGaulle! They likede him once!?

  28. Boris… you really are a top man! Don’t let all the PC, tree hugging, do gooders sway you. Take your holiday, like every other sensible, hardworking person in this country, and return with vigour to inject some much needed common sense and dynamism into London. by the way, if you could start with TFL and their stupid Oyster ticket system which is excepted on some trains, not on others, but will let you through the gates regardless…. that would save me about 20gbp a month in fines!

  29. Quite right Boris, the med know how to give folk a good time! Have you (or anyone) been to ‘Great’ Yarmouth recently? What a sad hole it is! I grew up there before it was vandalised, when it was truly Great with a 100 yard Olympic sized swimming pool with season tickets also and a Marina open air theatre (demolished of course) with family shows morning and evening. I even saw the Rolling Stones there on at the Regal! And there were at least five top name shows on, such were the visitor numbers to sustain it all then – It was all art decoish and delightfully ‘old fashiioned! the vandal council there wrecked it so that it is now just a place for saddos, drunks and social security B&B – terrible! Brighton is just about ok though!
    But, I suggest Boris that you join me (en famille of course) on one of the Paris Plages where I am writing this courtesy of Paris free wifi. Now that Mayor – the Mayor of Paris Monsieur Delanoe knows how to make people happy! why not team up with him and create something like it for hard pressed Londoners – Paris this August for me is truly a dream and it is all free! Lots of Love

  30. Boris, what are you up to, going on holiday twice, and what happens to the bendy buses – you’re not getting rid of them terrible things after all, are you!

  31. Regardless of the pseudo-environmental debate over whether trips abroad are green or not, I think it is only right that we Brits venture to other climes for holidays. We lambast the US citizens for not owning a passport, but then spend all our time moaning about the number of UK holiday makers in the Algarve. You can’t have it both ways: either travel broadens the mind and therefore the UK populace is more intellectually stimulated than our US counterparts, or we stay at home, moan about the weather, and lose vital brain cells watching Trisha. I know what I’d choose – Vive le Sud!

  32. Good for you! You always make me laugh ( in the nicest possible way Boris ). Have a fantastic holiday…can highly recommend Marbella, currently blue skies and only a few sunburnt Brits about in total denial ” I’m not burnt, I just go this colour before I turn brown.”

    Ps after watching “who do you think you are” on tv last night should I now address you as Your Royal Highness?!It may mean of course that you are now expected to holiday in Scotland. Cough….

  33. you’re so right!hope you and your family have a well deserved hot holiday.look forward to hearing and seeing more about you soon.enjoy!

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