Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent
Sun, 7 August 2022 at 10:30 pm
Labour has hit out at 15 Whitehall consultations being left unanswered by what it called the “zombie government”, as Boris Johnson arrived back at work from a nearly week-long holiday.
After being criticised for reportedly heading to Slovenia while his chancellor was also away despite dire economic warnings and calls to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis, the outgoing prime minister was told to “get on with running the country”.
It was revealed over the weekend that in more than half of the government’s key departments, ministerial announcements were pulled at short notice, legislation had stalled and deadlines missed on the publication of policy documents.
The latest criticism levelled at the government was for not responding to more than a dozen consultations, which are used to provide feedback on plans for overhauling and improving policies.
Treasury minister Alan Mak admitted to the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, that in the current parliamentary session, which began on 10 May, “we have identified 15 calls for evidence or consultations which are closed, but which government has not yet responded to”.
In response to criticism of Mak’s admission, a Treasury spokesperson said they kept consultations on tax issues “under review” to ensure policies are “fair and fit for purpose”.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the country was “grinding to a halt under the Conservatives” and that the consultations were “just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the poor track record of the Conservatives to deliver on their promises”.
She added: “They make empty promises, open pointless consultations, then hope the public won’t notice when they fail to actually govern.”
She took aim at Tory leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for appearing to be “more interested in announcing unfunded fantasy economics than gripping many of the problems facing our country”.
Rayner said rather than attacking each other and with the government having “checked out”, the Conservatives “should get on with running the country”.
Johnson is due to start work again in Downing Street from Monday, while the chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, is also expected to be back in the office later in the week.
Though the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, admitted “I don’t know where Boris is” when the prime minister was reportedly holidaying with his wife, Carrie, in Slovenia, Kwarteng did insist his boss was “on top of what’s happening”.
Johnson had been “nowhere to be seen”, according to Liberal Democrat spokesperson Christine Jardine. She said: “People are worried sick about soaring bills and a recession around the corner.
“We have a zombie government and a prime minister missing in action. The country deserves better during this time of national crisis.”
Johnson still has four weeks left in Downing Street as prime minister while the contest to replace him continues.
When he resigned on the steps of No 10, Johnson admitted it was “painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself” and insisted: “I want you to know that from now until the new prime minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.”
Truss and Sunak have been vying for members’ votes, meaning many Tory MPs are dedicating much of their time to campaigning for their candidate of choice.