Climate protesters welcome Mandelson back from Corfu

No longer will Lord Mandelson have to rely on an unreliable mobile phone signal for ensuring the Whitehall machine is running smoothly.

The First Secretary of State flew in to London on a budget flight from Corfu yesterday to continue his spell deputising for Gordon Brown.

Looked tanned and relaxed, he explained he was simply easing the burden on the Prime Minister, who travelled yesterday to the Lake District for the second leg of his summer break.

After touching down at Gatwick Airport, Lord Mandelson said: "I'm not in charge of the country. The Prime Minister is in charge of the country and he has been throughout.

"All this ridiculous song and dance about who is in charge is just a load of nonsense. But he is on holiday and if there are small things I can pick up to give him the best holiday that he deserves, I'll certainly do that."

He added: "It's been really good to go away and have nice peace and quiet on holiday. It was good and I am very glad to be back."

An apparent oversight in the holiday cover arrangements for ministers saw Lord Mandelson directing operations from a clifftop luxury estate in northern Corfu for three days. Holiday companions reported that he was constantly on the phone as they enjoyed the 30C temperatures.

The unofficial Deputy Prime Minister will divide his time this week between offices in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Cabinet Office. Lord Mandelson will concentrate on his departmental responsibilities, focusing on securing 5,000 Vauxhall jobs at Luton and Ellesmere Port and opening up access to universities.

Environmental campaigners marked his arrival by chaining themselves to railings outside his London home in protest at the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight.

Ellie Robson, a Cambridge University student, explained it was an act of solidarity with the workers who occupied the plant. She said: "Mandelson, the man in charge of the nation's purse strings, jets off to Corfu and ignores the Vestas workers' occupation."

Mr Brown spent the first two weeks of his holiday in his constituency home in Fife. He travelled south yesterday with his wife, Sarah, and two children for a stay in the Lake District. He has not holidayed abroad since becoming Prime Minister.