UK Politics

How to holiday like a prime minister

Theresa and Philip May Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Theresa and Philip May are in northern Italy before heading to Switzerland

It's that time of year when politicians get a break. But where to go, what to do? Here's a guide to organising a prime ministerial summer holiday...

Head for the hills

Theresa May, who must be relishing a break from trying to keep order in her cabinet, is spending a few days at Lake Garda in northern Italy with husband Philip.

She'll then return for an engagement before heading to Switzerland for a two-week walking break.

It will probably look a bit like this:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa and Philip May walking in Switzerland last year

Switzerland - it's in Europe, but is pretty neutral in Brexit terms - was also a destination of choice for ex-PM Margaret Thatcher.

When she went walking in Snowdonia in April, Mrs May decided to call the snap general election that ended up losing the Conservatives their majority. What effect will the mountain air have this time?

Or the British coast

Cornwall is a firm favourite of prime ministers - particularly David Cameron, who frequently holidayed there:

Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA
Image caption The Blairs also visited Cornwall on vacation
Image copyright PA
Image caption Margaret Thatcher on a rare break - also in Cornwall
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ted Heath liked venturing out to sea
Image copyright PA
Image caption Harold Wilson was a fan of the Scilly Isles

Get invited to a villa

In August 2003 Tony Blair stayed in Sir Cliff Richard's Barbados holiday home. The singer later revealed he had offered the Caribbean villa, where Mr Blair and his family stayed for three weeks, because the prime minister looked so "gaunt and tired" as debate raged about the Iraq war.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Tony Blair holidayed with a bandana-wearing Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia in 2004
Image copyright PA
Image caption Tony Blair and family stayed at Geoffrey Robinson's Tuscan villa in 1997

The following year Mr Blair stayed at the Sardinian villa of Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, reportedly leaving him hobbling after a challenge in a "friendly" football match.

Another Italian villa he stayed at was in Tuscany, and owned by Labour MP and former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson.

Point at some fish

Mr Cameron's much-documented habit of posing for photographs pointing at fish is an easy one to replicate.

This one was in Portugal in 2013.

Image copyright AFP

Have a mid-flight snack

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Cameron filmed tucking into crisps on budget flight

Fairly standard behaviour for most of us - and two years ago, on an Easyjet flight to Portugal, David Cameron might have thought he was away from prying eyes as he tucked into a tube of Pringles.

Twitter, and in particular a teenager called Ashleigh who posted footage of the apparently oblivious PM, thought otherwise.

"Guys I'm crying he was eating Pringles," she informed her followers.

Get a street named after you

Image copyright AP

This one's a bit harder to achieve - but former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major managed it in 2013 in the Spanish town of Candeleda.

Local politicians voted to name the Avenida de John Major in honour of his annual holiday visits during his time in Downing Street.

Sir John was invited to the naming ceremony in the town, 100 miles from Madrid, which he described as one of the "jewels" of Spain.

Pack your smart casual

Image copyright PA

In 2008 Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was under pressure after his party's shock defeat in the Glasgow East by-election, and his summer holiday didn't get off to a very relaxing start at a Norfolk country park as he fielded reporters' questions about his future.

"I think everybody's ready for a holiday at this time of year," he told them.

The PM's formal choice of attire - beige jacket and dark trousers - was markedly different to the then Tory leader David Cameron's barefoot appearance on a Cornish beach.

"It might not quite have been a scene from Baywatch but the contrast with Mr Brown could scarcely have been greater," the Daily Telegraph noted.

But once he became prime minister, Mr Cameron's holiday fashion often came under fire. In 2013 his outfit, including loafers without socks, was branded a "sartorial shocker" by the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts.

Watch your tipping

Image copyright Reuters

Tipping etiquette can be confusing in foreign countries - and when David Cameron and wife Samantha didn't leave one after paying for their cappuccinos in an Italian cafe in 2011, it did not go unnoticed.

The PM returned to the Dolcenero cafe in Montevarchi, Tuscany, leaving a healthy tip to make amends.

The waitress told reporters Mr Cameron had apologised for any fuss the incident had caused.

Cut it short

The news doesn't stop coming during the summer holidays, and prime ministers have frequently had to cut short their trips as events intervened.

David Cameron returned home from Italy in 2011 as riots broke out in London, and Gordon Brown abandoned his 2007 trip to Dorset after just a few hours to chair crisis talks over foot-and-mouth disease.

Even without returning home, prime ministers have to be ready to act from their holiday homes.

With stories of plotting ministers in the newspapers, Mr Cameron's former head of political press, Giles Kenningham, says Mrs May needs to find a way to "assert herself" and avoid a "vacuum" while she's away.

"She needs to be visible when she's abroad," he says.

Still stuck for ideas?

The Daily Politics asked MPs how they plan to spend summer recess:

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRecess ideas from MPs Pound, Millar, Watson, Hain and Mak

Related Topics