Leading article: An ill-judged absence

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The clamour for political leaders to curtail their holidays when something goes wrong is a simplistic, knee-jerk response.

For anything short of an all-out national crisis, holidays are what deputies are for – which is why it was ill-advised for the Prime Minister and his deputy to be away at the same time.

That said, the Home Secretary was right to return; after all, it is her department which is at the centre of this particular storm. The same applies to the London Mayor. His deputy, Kit Malthouse, has been doing a sterling job. But Boris Johnson's insistence, until last night, that he would not return – indeed, that any change of plan could be interpreted as a victory for the rioters – showed bad judgement, and a poor appreciation of his responsibilities.

Mr Johnson has personalised the office even more than his predecessor did and he has been assiduous about fronting the good news. He has also made quite an issue of the Metropolitan Police, whose conduct is, again, under scrutiny. If he wants to be taken seriously as Mayor – and this is still not quite certain – he needs to be present, not distant, at such a time. It's unfortunate that it took him two days to reach that conclusion for himself.

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