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UK's Johnson went on country weekend instead of attending emergency heatwave briefing

The revelation comes as Penny Mordaunt fends off criticism in her bid to replace Johnson.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson’s government stood accused of failing to take seriously an impending heat emergency as forecasters warned that lives were at risk.

Johnson missed a crisis ministerial meeting in Downing Street yesterday while he took a weekend break at his Chequers country retreat – and is believed hosting a farewell party for friends today before he leaves office in September.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab then appeared to welcome the likelihood of temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius in England for the first time.

“Obviously there is some common-sense practical advice we are talking about -– stay hydrated, stay out of the sun at the hottest times, wear sun cream — those sorts of things,” Raab told Sky News today.

“We ought to enjoy the sunshine and actually we ought to be resilient enough through some of the pressures it will place,” he added, insisting there was no reason for schools to close when the mercury peaks on Monday and Tuesday.

The comments raised eyebrows, as did Johnson’s absence from the Downing Street meeting about the government’s response to the heatwave. He was forced to resign partly because of other parties held during Covid lockdowns.

Speaking after Raab on Sky, College of Paramedics chief executive Tracy Nicholls said: “This isn’t like a lovely hot day where we can put a bit of sunscreen on, go out and enjoy a swim and a meal outside.

“This is serious heat that could actually, ultimately, end in people’s deaths because it is so ferocious,” she said.

“We’re just not set up for that sort of heat in this country.”

Contrary to Raab’s sang froid, after Saturday’s meeting, government minister Kit Malthouse warned that transport services face “significant disruption” during the heatwave and said the public should work from home if possible.

The UK capital is expected to see the highest temperatures and mayor Sadiq Khan advised Londoners only to use public transport if “absolutely necessary”.

Ambulance services are on crisis footing, and some schools in southern England have already said they will stay shut.

The Met Office, Britain’s state meteorological agency, has issued a first-ever “red” warning for extreme heat, cautioning there is a “risk to life” and attributing the heatwave to man-made climate change.

Britain’s highest recorded temperature is currently 38.7C set in Cambridge, eastern England, on 25 July, 2019. But that looks set to be surpassed in the Met Office’s projections for this week.

Johnson will remain as prime minister until 5 September, when his successor will be elected by Conservative MPs.

The five candidates remaining will be narrowed down to two for this vote, with Minister of State for Trade Policy, Penny Mordaunt, a favourite to reach the final stage.

Mordaunt has claimed today that she is the victim of “smears” following fresh claims about her views on transgender issues.

She rejected claims she had ever pursued a policy of self-identification for trans people seeking to legally change gender after press reports appeared to cast doubt on her earlier denials.

In the first televised debate on Friday, Mordaunt clashed with Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch after they claimed they had been responsible for reversing the policy which she championed as an equalities minister.

However The Sunday Times said it had seen government papers which appeared to suggest Mordaunt was in favour of removing at least one element of the medical process required for transgender people to legally transition.

With additional reporting from PA and Jamie Mc Carron

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