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It is a law of British politics that prime ministers are only allowed to go on fancy holidays in beautiful and exotic locations far from these shores, if they also endure a penitential break somewhere on our draughty archipelago. So David Cameron went to Italy, but to pay for it he was then forced to endure a week in Cornwall. Sadly Mr Cameron went and botched this piece of constitutional theatre – by failing to feign the same level of enthusiasm for his holiday in the sun and his period of forced internal exile.
It does not matter that it is windy and wet: prime ministers must grin and bear it. Yet Mr Cameron failed in this duty. While sunning himself in delightful Italy he initially took the view that the difficult business of dispersing marauding gangs of moody hoodies and career criminals in London could be dealt with over the phone. (You do have to wonder about the judgment of a man who, during a visit to Italy, draws the lesson that having your capital city ransacked by vandals is not worth a trip home. Not big on historical parallels, that Mr Cameron, even if he did eventually head home.)
By contrast, when he was in Cornwall, no matter was too distant to detain him. On hearing about the advance on Tripoli by Libya’s rebels he seemed unable to leave the charms of Polzeath quickly enough. To be fair, he probably had to get back to supervise the drawing of new lines on maps, while urgently signing letters and checking a press release or two. All of top importance.
I can only assume Mrs Cameron was not terribly happy. But the PM is a master of persuasion, when the national interest is at stake: “Oh, well I’ve got to head back, Sam. You know they’re holding a committee. It’s not like they do that every day. It’s a pretty big deal. Don’t worry though – I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun. Why don’t you go and sit in the wind with the kids?”
Tragically, however, it turns out the committee was not a multi-day event. Mr Cameron’s offer to type up the minutes and distribute copies was rebuffed – and he was, alas, forced to return to his summer banishment. One can only picture the scene, as Britain’s unhappily holidaying leader desperately sits in his holiday home, glued to Sky News and hoping for a new drama to drag him back to the metropolis.
Here the options are also sadly limited. Can he afford to stay away from London for the release of GCSE results? There will be some pretty unhappy children out there today. “Sam, let me remind you that the only difference between a kid disappointed with a B in Latin and a rioter kicking in JD Sports is my firm leadership. Now, why don’t you take the kids down to the beach?”.
Elsewhere, perhaps looming issues at Arsenal might render diehard fans of the North London club unhappy enough to spark a new spot of looting. “Sorry, Sam. Apparently, Wenger isn’t spending his war chest. I’d better head back to keep a lid on things. Why don’t you have a sandy ice-cream with the kids?”
Britain surely deserves better. Indeed, the only way for the PM now to prove his loyalty to the British holiday industry is to take a second break somewhere even grimmer than Cornwall, to reassure us that he is just like us. Perhaps he might stop off at Morecambe or Skegness for a week with the family. In November.
Fleet Street has become politically correct. Well, a bit. Most years, journalists use the excuse of A-level results day to decorate their pages with pictures of attractive blondes leaping in celebration. But this year was something of an exception, as discussion of the jumping blonde phenomenon – including on these very pages – jolted newspapers out of the habit. For now.
Of the roughly 50 young people pictured in national newspapers on A-level results day last Friday, almost half were boys. Of the girls pictured only about one-third were blonde – and two of those were of the same terrifying overachiever, Eleanor Davidson, who got eight A* grades. That’s a pretty good excuse for a pretty young lady.
The Mirror’s pretext for leaping girls was a bit thinner, but it deserves chutzpah points for illustrating the controversy about using pictures of pulchritudinous blondes by using pictures of, er, pulchritudinous blondes. But I hope our newspapers will do better yet. If picture editors want true representativeness, they need to look beyond gender. There were still too few shy, odd-looking kids with gawky grins, and six inches of lens in their glasses. Next year, perhaps.