Should the Prime Minister have returned home after the Tsunami disaster struck on Boxing Day?
7 Jan 2005
When he was asked this question at his monthly Press Conference, the Prime Minister gave a perfectly reasonable reply. It would have made no difference to the victims or their families if he had; he was kept fully in the picture while he was in Egypt; everything that could be done by the Government was being done. Some commentators reinforced his argument by saying that, had he come back early, he would have been accused by his critics of grandstanding.

I bought that argument. Until I found myself observing a three minute silence on Wednesday. This was at the request of the Government and I was happy to respond. But that request for the nation to observe a three minute silence seems to me to undermine the essentially pragmatic argument of the Prime Minister for staying on holiday.

The three minute silence made no difference to the victims, to their families or to the aid effort. (That was why some people boycotted it. )But it was an entirely appropriate action to take; for the nation to pause, to reflect, to send a signal to those who were suffering that others were thinking of them and to respect those who had lost their lives.

But if it was right to reject the entirely pragmatic argument and to recognise that there is another dimension to the tragedy, then it was surely inappropriate for the Prime Minister to have continued to enjoy his holiday. He should have shown some solidarity with his team of Ministers who were working hard over the recess, with the volunteers who were collecting money and assembling parcels of relief and come to the country of which he is Prime Minister, which had suffered its largest loss of life since the Second World War.

Not a major offence; but in my view an error of judgement.
 
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