The prospect of working in an office has never been less inviting.
If you manage to avoid developing 12 new close coronavirus contacts on your morning metro journey, the chances are your office will be so deserted you’ll wonder why you bothered anyway.
Even if there are a handful of people in your ghost bureau it’s likely they’ll be fellow lost souls who have also forgotten how to socialize.
So it’s little wonder that politicians seem to be finding any excuse to hop on a plane and conduct their all-important “bilaterals” face-to-face.
Indeed, the only people in Europe who seem to be exempt from the blanket of travel restrictions are politicians, expensive footballers and those in Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s “closest inner circle.” (I’d rather be in permanent quarantine than be invited to that bash.)
Here are five politicians whose jollies, jaunts and general refusals to stay put have backfired:
1. Maha Vajiralongkorn
King of Thailand Maha Vajiralongkorn caused a diplomatic row with Germany, and angered pro-democracy protestors at home, by spending so much of his time in a fancy Bavarian hotel rather than back in Bangkok.
This week the German government said there would be “immediate consequences” for the king if he’s found to be conducting the business of ruling Thailand from German soil.
Known for his lavish tastes, vast appetite for mistresses and lust for the days of absolute monarchy, Maha already resembles kings from medieval Europe, so it’s no wonder he spends so much time there.
Instead of threatening him, Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats should think strategically and select the Thai king as Angela Merkel’s successor. Merkel can’t govern forever, although Maha would surely try to.
Let’s face it, he can’t do worse than Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer.
P.S. Please don’t imprison me for offending you, King Maha. I think your tattoos and skimpy crop top look great.
2. Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen performed the sort of disappearing trick normally only associated with EU funds to Bulgaria after announcing she had to self-isolate earlier this month.
She left an EU leaders’ summit early, but her spokesman initially refused to say where she’d gone, and said he couldn’t tell when she’d be “in circulation” again, unfortunately making her sound a bit like the virus itself, even though she had tested negative.
It later emerged that VDL was safely ensconced in her Hanover pad, from where she had presided over an online meeting of her commissioners.
Having thus proven she is more than able to do her job from outside her Berlaymont HQ, perhaps VDL is finally starting to regret her decision to literally live in her office.
In fairness, living alone on floor number 13 of a deserted office block is not where you want to be during an already spooky pandemic, especially in the run-up to Halloween.
3. Phil Hogan
The former EU trade chief got trapped in a bunker of his own making in August when a scandal erupted over his apparent disregard for coronavirus travel restrictions during golfing excursions in his native Ireland.
He initially refused to apologize for his presence at a busy golf club soirée, which led to sanctions for other politicians in attendance. Ironically, Hogan showed exactly the sort of pig-headed refusal to budge that made him such a good trade negotiator.
As the scandal, dubbed golfgate, spiralled in Ireland, Hogan failed to kill the story off, as details dripped out about his activities, which included playing golf, driving into a sealed-off county to pick up work documents, and even getting pulled over by the police for using his mobile while driving.
With Dublin clamoring for him to go, and the European Commission looking increasingly indecisive, Hogan signed the final deal he would ever strike in Brussels — his resignation letter.
Pros: tariff-free access to as much golf as he wants. Cons: embarrassing way to lose your job.
4. Scott Morrison
Australian PM Scott Morrison fanned the flames of criticism about a lack of action on climate change late last year when he decided to go to Hawaii on holiday as bushfires were ravaging Australia.
You don’t need to be a political scientist to know that swanning off for some hula dancing while people are losing lives and livelihoods while three billion animals are being burned to a crisp isn’t the best look.
The Australian government’s handling of the coronavirus has helped improve Morrison’s public standing. At least we now know that pandemic beats fire in the 2020 version of rock, paper, scissors (fire, pandemic, vaccine?).
5. Carles Puigdemont
After presiding over an outlawed independence referendum in Catalonia, the former regional president leader fled to Belgium, where he has remained ever since.
If Puigdemont had stayed in his office, he’d be in prison by now (his former deputy is serving a 13-year sentence), unless he had locked the door, turned off the lights and pretended to be out. Instead, he’s holed up in leafy Waterloo.
Supporters of anti-independence political parties in Spain, please send your angry letters to my office — where I don’t intend to be for at least 12 months.