Cameron and Boris scramble to be first home from holiday

 

David Cameron cut short his holiday last night to fly back to Britain to take charge of the response to the wave of riots in London.

Following three days of disturbances, he will today chair a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee after deciding to abandon his summer break at an Italian villa four days early. He will be joined by senior ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and police chiefs to co-ordinate action against the wave of lawlessness.

Downing Street had earlier stressed that he was in constant touch with Whitehall officials, but his surprise decision to come back underlines the gravity with which the crisis is being treated within the Government.

The Prime Minister's move came hours after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, bowed to criticism and scrapped his holiday in Canada to return. Senior government sources had earlier expressed incredulity that Mr Johnson had chosen to remain on vacation in British Columbia when Ms May returned early from her break in Switzerland. Tellingly, neither Mr Cameron nor Ms May spoke to the Mayor in their rounds of calls to discuss the disturbances. "There was a strong feeling that he should have announced he was coming back sooner," said a senior source in No 10.

"When you have the Home Secretary cutting short her holiday while the man who is in charge of London stays away, you have to wonder what's going on." Another said: "Anyone would think he didn't have an election to fight next year."

Mr Johnson, who is believed to have been touring the Rockies in a camper van, will arrive back in London this afternoon – probably too late for the Cobra meeting. Among those who had called for his return was Ken Livingstone who will be his Labour opponent in next year's mayoral elections.

He said: "I can't believe that, after another night of riots, the Mayor still refuses to be here. When 7/7 happened, I was in Singapore as part of the London Olympic bid. I knew I had to be back in London as quickly as possible."

But Mr Johnson's deputy Kit Malthouse insisted that he had been speaking to the Mayor "every hour or two" and said he could deal with the situation from abroad as if "he was sitting in his office".

But in a sign of the Government moving to assert its control over the situation, Downing Street released details of Ms May's meetings with Tim Godwin, the Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner, Mr Malthouse and other senior officers. They said she had not spoken to Mr Johnson.

Speaking earlier she said: "The violence, the looting, the thuggery we've seen – this is sheer criminality. That's why I say that these people will be brought to justice: they will be made to face the consequences of their actions."

Mr Clegg, on his first day back from holiday, toured the scene of Saturday night's riots in Tottenham and also denounced the destruction he had seen. "Earlier this afternoon I saw for myself the loss and devastation caused by mindless destruction in Tottenham," he said. "Local people won't allow their community to be torn apart by a minority of thieves and troublemakers."

The Tory MP Nick de Bois, whose Enfield North constituency was hit by riots on Sunday, said he was surprised not to have been contacted either by the Mayor or the Mayor's office. But he insisted he was not dismayed by Mr Johnson's absence from the capital, adding: "The organisation is bigger than one individual."

One Tory minister said he was never surprised by the situations in which Mr Johnson found himself.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week