Europe's Political Leaders Gone AWOL During Global Finance Panic

Europe's Economy Is In Turmoil - But Where Are All The Leaders?

Many financial commentators are concerned that the world economy is on the verge of replaying the crash of 2008.

It's in times like these people look to their leaders to find out what lies ahead and what measures will be taken. But Europe's leaders have been conspicuously absent. They're all on holiday of course.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne have all left the country to unwind at the same time. The prime minister is reposing in Tuscany for two weeks, the chancellor topping up his tan in Beverley Hills, while the Lib Dem leader reclines in France.

Such absences are repeated across Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy stayed in France, but is on a three-week holiday on the French Riviera at a private villa.

Angela Merkel is hiking through Italy, taking with her a 900-page biography of Stalin for relaxation.

Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland, is in County Kerry with his wife and children. His spokesperson commented that he planned to spend his time "hillwalking, swimming and reading".

Meanwhile, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi was content to retreat to his villa outside Milan, having reassured parliament that his country was "economically and financially solid".

The most decisive action came from Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who postponed his holiday to rush back to Madrid on Thursday. Portugal's Pedro Passos Coelho similarly cancelled his holiday when he realised the gravity of the financial situation.

Other European leaders have promised citizens they will peel themselves off their sun-loungers and swing into action.

Sarkozy is due to phone Merkel and Zapatero to discuss financial markets later on Friday.

Foreign secretary William Hague is the most senior Cabinet secretary left in London, but John Prescott tweeted that it was actually Larry, the Downing Street cat, who has been left in charge.

He posted a picture of Larry on an empty cabinet table. Hague has defended the arrangements, telling the BBC: "The government is operating 24 hours a day. We are not in the 18th Century. Of course everyone is constantly in touch".

Support for Cameron and Clegg has came from an unlikely quarter. Alastair Campbell commented that he did not support ministers rushing back from their holidays, saying :"I don't join the chorus calling for 'someone to come back' as therapy for the nation. I would be surprised if Osborne and Cameron are not spending at least a third of their waking hours on the phone or reading briefing papers rather than books."


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