Top cabinet minister admits 'I don't know where Boris is' amid dire economic forecasts

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted 'I don’t know where Boris is' (PA)
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted 'I don’t know where Boris is'. (PA)

A cabinet minister has admitted he has no idea where Boris Johnson is amid crisis warnings about the UK’s economy.

The prime minister, who had his wedding party last weekend and is currently on holiday, has been accused by Labour of being "missing in action" after the Bank of England (BoE) warned the nation faces a 15-month recession and inflation of more than 13% later this year.

In response, the BoE raised interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%, the biggest rise for 27 years, which will put more pressure on mortgage holders and borrowers.

Johnson has not spoken publicly about the crisis, while chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is also on holiday.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, facing questions about the government’s response, said today: “I don’t know where Boris is.”

Watch: Bank of England predicts 13% inflation and recession as interest rates rise

As households continue to face unprecedented cost of living increases, Kwarteng said the public won’t “begrudge” Johnson of his holiday.

Kwarteng, thought to be a leading candidate to be next chancellor should Liz Truss win the Conservative leadership contest, said Britons will have to wait until the next PM is installed before the government reveals further support to combat the cost of living crisis.

Speaking on Times Radio, Kwarteng insisted it is “false” to say the outgoing administration has been doing nothing.

“I said we’re going to have to wait four weeks for an emergency budget because that’s how we help people. It’ll be through the new chancellor, new prime minister, whoever they are, to come up with the measures.

LISBURN, NORTHERN IRELAND - AUGUST 01: Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church on August 1, 2022 in Lisburn, Norther Ireland. Trimble died last week, aged 77. (Photo by Liam McBurney - Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's last public appearance was on Monday at the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble. (Getty Images) (Pool via Getty Images)

“But the idea we’re doing nothing in the meantime is false.”

He was then reminded of Johnson being on holiday. Kwarteng admitted: “I don’t know where Boris is, but I’m in constant contact with him. He’s just had a wedding, I think he’s on a honeymoon and… I don’t think many people will begrudge him that.”

Asked why he does not know the PM’s whereabouts, Kwarteng replied: “Because I’m here in London, focusing on my job. I’m in regular contact with him, as I am with the chancellor of the Exchequer [Zahawi].”

Read more: Three simple charts that show why this winter will be disastrous for families

He added he exchanges WhatsApp messages with the pair “all the time”.

Zahawi, quoted in The Times, said “there is no such thing as a holiday and not working… the privilege and responsibility of public service means you never get to switch off”.

The chancellor said on Thursday he had spoken to BoE governor Andrew Bailey to discuss the government's "continued focus to tackling inflation and supporting people".

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Johnson’s "zombie Conservative government has checked out after crashing the economy", adding: “As people up and down the country are sick with worry about how they’ll pay the bills, ministers have gone missing in action."