LONDON: A British cabinet member admitted on Friday “I don’t know where Boris is” as the prime minister checked out on holiday, in a week that saw the Bank of England warn a year-long recession is coming.

Boris Johnson has since Wednesday been on a belated honeymoon with wife Carrie. Downing Street has refused to say where, but The Times newspaper said the couple were in Slovenia.

Johnson will have a lot more time on his hands after September 6, when he is due to hand over to either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader, but decided to take a break sooner.

The opposition Labour party accused the government’s two senior-most ministers of being “missing in action” — with Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi also on holiday this week.

“I don’t know where Boris is, but I’m in constant contact with him,” Business Secretary and Truss supporter Kwasi Kwarteng told Times Radio.

Bank of England warns of incoming year-long recession

He said he exchanges WhatsApp messages with both Johnson and Zahawi “all the time”, and insisted that criticism the government was doing nothing about the economic crisis was “false”.

Zahawi said he had remained in touch with Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey on Thursday after the central bank hiked interest rates from 1.25 per cent to 1.75pc, the biggest rise in 27 years.

The bank is trying to rein in surging inflation, which it warned could peak at 13.3 per cent, as it forecast the UK economy would enter a recession in the fourth quarter that will last until late 2023.

“For me, like I’m sure lots of others, there is no such thing as a holiday and not working. I never had that in the private sector, not in government,” Zahawi said in a statement.

Magical solutions

Foreign Secretary Truss and Sunak, Zahawi’s predecessor as chancellor, clashed anew over how to address the crisis in a televised debate on Thursday.

“The reality is we’re facing a recession if we carry on with our business-as-usual policies,” Truss, who is leading in surveys of Tory members, told reporters on Friday.

She plans an emergency budget to lower taxes immediately to combat the cost-of-living crisis, and to review the independent Bank of England’s inflation-fighting mandate.

But Sunak said tax cuts financed with more borrowing would force the bank to increase interest rates even more, insisting on the need to maintain fiscal rigour and tame the price pressures first.

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox, who supports Sunak, warned against “magical solutions” via debt-financed tax cuts as proposed by Truss.

At Thursday’s Sky News debate, Truss was forced on the back foot after the moderator highlighted her shifting stances over the years, including a major policy U-turn this week on pay for public-sector workers.

But Sunak also faced embarrassment after video emerged of him telling grassroots Tories in wealthy Kent last week that, as chancellor, he had diverted government funds away from “deprived urban areas”.

His campaign said that in the video, obtained on Friday by the New Statesman magazine, Sunak had merely stressed the need to shift the focus of government help to other towns and rural areas.

But senior Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: “This leadership race is revealing the Conservatives’ true colours.

“It’s scandalous that Rishi Sunak is openly boasting that he fixed the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to prosperous Tory shires.”

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Militancy redux
12 Aug, 2022

Militancy redux

THE ghosts of the past are coming back to haunt the residents of Swat Valley in the Malakand Division. Several ...
Distorting history
12 Aug, 2022

Distorting history

WHEN history is co-opted by ideologically overzealous elements, expect the facts to die a quick death, and...
Dengue danger
12 Aug, 2022

Dengue danger

WITH rains continuing across most of the country, a dengue outbreak can quickly become a major headache for health...
Khorasani’s killing
11 Aug, 2022

Khorasani’s killing

OMAR Khalid Khorasani, a dreaded TTP ‘commander’, lived by the sword and very much died by the sword. But beyond...
Gross overreaction
Updated 11 Aug, 2022

Gross overreaction

The government has already done considerable damage to itself with its indelicate handling of the situation.
Dadu deaths
11 Aug, 2022

Dadu deaths

DISEASES that are usually mild and preventable in countries with developed healthcare systems often prove to be...