This is a strange time for Boris Johnson to spend eight days abroad

The prime minister should beware the history of Margaret Thatcher and various African presidents, writes John Rentoul

<p>One reason prime ministers tend not to leave the country for long is because they associate foreign trips with plots against them </p>

One reason prime ministers tend not to leave the country for long is because they associate foreign trips with plots against them

Prime ministers spend more time worrying that they are about to be deposed than people think, even if, like Boris Johnson, they pretend not to. Harold Wilson dismissed talk of plots by saying: “I know what is going on: I’m going on.” He was paranoid but some of the time they were indeed out to get him.

That is one reason prime ministers tend not to leave the country for long, because they associate foreign trips with plots against them. This is probably the product of two things.

One is the fall of Margaret Thatcher. She decided to carry on with an international summit meeting in Paris while MPs were voting in the first round of the leadership contest in 1990. She voted for herself by proxy. It is conceivable that if she had stayed in No 10 she would have been better aware of the failings of her campaign team, led by Peter Morrison, a former minister who was her parliamentary private secretary.

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