Mandelson is running Britain...from Corfu...on his BlackBerry

He's still on holiday (at the Rothschilds' luxury villa) but the First Minister's in charge

Not every minister would have been quite so cavalier about being handed control of the levers of Downing Street power.

Most would have relished every minute of their chance to run the country while Gordon Brown was out of town. But Lord Mandelson appears happy to combine work and pleasure by standing in for the Prime Minister from his Corfu poolside.

The all-powerful First Secretary of State has taken over responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Whitehall machine from Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, who began her holiday yesterday. But he will not let the small matter of deputising for Mr Brown prevent him from enjoying the 30C temperatures on the Greek holiday island for the next two days.

The result is that the heart of the British government has temporarily shifted this weekend 1,200 miles out of London to a villa with spectacular views of the Ionian Sea.

Lord Mandelson will not return to Britain until Monday. Aides will keep the sun-loving peer in touch with urgent developments via his BlackBerry and mobile phone – assuming he is not enjoying a dip in the water or an afternoon siesta.

They insisted there would be no need to organise an emergency flight home if a major crisis broke this weekend because Gordon Brown, who is on holiday a mere 420 miles away in his Fife constituency home, would step in.

But officials drew up a rota of Cabinet ministers to take charge throughout August to enable their workaholic boss to take a break.

The fact that Lord Mandelson, who was not even in the government last summer, has taken over while still in Corfu will be seen by admirers and detractors alike as fresh evidence of the huge influence he wields over the Brown administration.

His selection of holiday destination had already raised eyebrows, as his visit to the island last year provoked a political storm over the hospitality that he – and the shadow Chancellor George Osborne – received on board the yacht of the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

While Mr Osborne is steering clear of the island this year, Lord Mandelson flew out to Corfu last Monday. One fellow passenger reported that he was engrossed with his BlackBerry until the moment of take-off. He will be staying once again at the luxury villa owned by the Rothschild banking dynasty.

Last year his old friend Nat Rothschild became embroiled in the "yachtgate" controversy after arranging for him and Mr Osborne to meet Mr Deripaska.

Ms Harman "signed off" from duty on Thursday afternoon. She has flown off for a family holiday in Italy after a controversial 10-day spell in which she blamed the male dominance of banking for the global financial crisis and warned that men "cannot be left to run things on their own".

Government sources confirmed that the baton had passed to Lord Mandelson yesterday morning, when he still had three days of his Corfu holiday to run. His assumption of control appeared to run contrary to a warning last month from Mr Brown to ministers that they could not be "on call" with their families at home.

A Downing Street memo to Whitehall departments last month stressed: "The Prime Minister wants business to be fronted by ministers and expects duty ministers to be on duty in London or on departmental visits at all times."

In fact it appears that the most senior minister currently on duty in the capital is Tessa Jowell, the Cabinet Office Minister.

Last night a Downing Street source said Lord Mandelson's presence in Corfu would not affect the smooth operation of government. Plans are being drawn up for a series of events next week to highlight government initiatives to boost industry.

The source said: "Gordon remains in charge. This week Harriet has been around in London to help with the heavy lifting. Peter will be around to help next week. People are on call on BlackBerries and mobiles – Peter can do that from Corfu; Gordon can do that from Scotland.

"The wonders of modern technology," he added, "are such that it doesn't make a difference where you are. It's not like there has to be someone sitting in London all the time. We have never had any trouble getting hold of Peter."

He pointed out that Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, had taken the decision to free Ronnie Biggs from prison although he was away on holiday. Mr Straw and Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, will also have a week each "minding the shop" during the Prime Minister's holiday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?