Simon Kelner: Breaking media taboo about our summer holidays

Kelner's view
  • @Simon_Kelner

What would we have done without the Olympics? When I say "we", I don't mean we as a nation, who have discovered national pride, a sense of communal purpose and a public self-confidence through the outstanding achievements of our athletes and the successful staging of the Games.

In this case, the "we" applies to we journalists who, in the dog days of August, have had an endless supply of uplifting news stories and human interest tales and countless topics to analyse and comment upon. Day after day, events at the Games filled acres of newsprint at a time of year when, traditionally, the news agenda is less packed with goodies. But now the circus has left town and what are we left with? The dreaded silly season, that's what.

It's the time of year when news coverage is almost ritualised and when you can pretty well predict the stories that will occupy column inches.

Not much surprise, therefore, that – post-Olympics – the papers have been full of a hardy annual topic: politicians and their holidays. This begins with a discussion about whether our elected representatives should be taking a break at all.

After all, there's always a crisis of one sort or another that might need their attention, but David Cameron was refreshingly uncompromising when this idea was put to him just before he headed off to Majorca this week. "I don't call it annual leave," he said. "I call it a holiday. And I'm looking forward to having a holiday." (At least he waited until after the Olympics: he wouldn't have wanted Boris to take all the glory. On second thoughts, it may be too late for that.) "I'm a great believer that politicians are human beings and they need to take holidays," added Mr Cameron.

A more relevant question to ask and one to which many people could relate, is: does anyone properly switch off these days? Time was when you'd come back from abroad and have to spend hours catching up with what's been going on. Now, you're never more than a ringtone away from home. Look around the pool or on the beach: books are now outnumbered by smartphones. If Mr Cameron truly wants to get away from it all, he should ditch the Blackberry.

Jean Seaton, professor of media history at the University of Westminster, has been a vocal supporter of the PM's philosophy. "Politicians need to read books," she said. "And I think they need to manage their children in the back as they fight." Presumably, should the Camerons find themselves in this position, a simple threat to leave the offending child in the pub will be enough to restore the peace.

The next point on the political holiday news arc is when the staged photographs are released. Cue the fashion debate. Socks or no socks? Sandals or smart shoes? The Prime Minister just can't win.

Last year, we had "Mankle-gate", and this year Mr Cameron has been taken to task for wearing leather slip-ons. In all earnestness, one fashion editor said yesterday that this was all right for a morning coffee in the Cotswolds, but very wrong for the Balearics. Give me a break! And I mean that literally.