Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Holiday time: Should leaders ever go away?

August has seen the holidays of the powerful regularly interrupted by events. But is there ever a good time to go away?

It's the holiday moment every leader fears. You're dozing on a lounger wondering whether to have a sundowner or a swim, when news arrives of an emergency back home.

In today's 24-hour rolling news world, leaders are expected to be at their desks at a moment's notice. Even outside the world of politics and statesmen, captains of industry can find themselves criticised for being on holiday during a crisis. Former BP chief executive Tony Hayward was attacked for going sailing shortly after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

And during the row over Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's treatment of Andrew Sachs, BBC director general Mark Thompson was criticised in the newspapers for initially being away on holiday.

But politics is the arena where it happens most. This week President Obama was criticised after being pictured cycling with his daughter while on holiday in Martha's Vineyard. Republican critics argued the fighting in Libya meant he should return to work.

During the last Labour government Tony Blair had to return from Florida in January 2007 to deal with the Northern Ireland peace process. His successor Gordon Brown chose to return from Dorset in August 2007 to lead the response to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. more