Boris Johnson and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are on holiday despite warnings of inflation further soaring and of the economy entering the longest recession since the financial crisis.
With ministers taking a back seat as the Tory party is gripped by the leadership contest, both men were away from Westminster when the Bank of England detailed the brutal outlook.
Mr Zahawi insisted he was still working and had a call with Governor Andrew Bailey after interest rates were hiked from 1.25% to 1.75%, the biggest increase for 27 years.
But Labour accused the Chancellor and the Prime Minister of being “missing in action” as the cost-of-living crisis deepened further, with the Bank forecasting inflation could peak at 13.3%.
In a statement, Mr Zahawi said: “For me, like I’m sure lots of others, there is no such thing as a holiday and not working. I never had that in the private sector, not in government.
“Ask any entrepreneur and they can tell you that. Millions of us dream about getting away with our families but the privilege and responsibility of public service means that you never get to switch off, that’s why I have had calls and briefings every day and continue to do so.”
Leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, and Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, trashed each other’s economic visions after the Bank unveiled the gloomy picture.
Mr Sunak warned that his opponent’s plans to increase borrowing to go for growth with tax cuts will “make high inflation and high prices last for longer, making everyone poorer”.
Ms Truss countered by saying the bleak forecast “underlines the need for the bold economic plan”, with Mr Sunak instead pledging to get inflation under control before enacting major tax cuts.
I know today's news will have been concerning for many people across the UK.
I've spoken to Andrew Bailey, @bankofengland Governor to discuss the challenging global context and our continued focus to tackling inflation and supporting people with rising prices.
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) August 4, 2022
Shadow treasury minister Abena Oppong-Asare said: “Families and pensioners are worried sick about how they’ll pay their bills, but the Prime Minister and Chancellor are missing in action.
“The fact they’re both on holiday on the day the Bank of England forecasts the joint longest recession in 30 years speaks volumes about the Tories’ warped priorities.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran added: “At a time of national crisis we deserve better than these shirkers. Time and again they have been absent in the country’s time of need.
“The very least the British people can ask for is a Chancellor and Prime Minister who will explain how they got us into this mess and what the plan is to solve it.”
Ms Truss has pledged to re-examine the Bank’s mandate to make sure it has a “tight enough focus on the money supply and on inflation”.
Her ally, Attorney General Suella Braverman, said Ms Truss would review the Bank’s mandate, adding that interest rates “should have been raised a long time ago and the Bank of England has been too slow in this regard”.
Mr Johnson, who will resign from No 10 on September 6, began a summer holiday on Wednesday. It was not clear where either men are holidaying.