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.

News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
news

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game