Prime minister Boris Johnson has barred his ministers from attending the elite World Economic Forum in Davos, where top business leaders mingle with world leaders.
Johnson, who will also not attend the gathering, is hoping to “get on with delivering the priorities of the British people”, a Downing Street official has said.
The official said that Johnson’s Conservative party promised that Brexit would be delivered by 31 January, and that the government would instead be focused on that goal.
The move will be seen as an attempt to appeal to working class voters, many of whom voted for the Conservatives for the first time in last week’s general election.
A new survey from YouGov showed on Tuesday that the party is now more popular among working class voters than middle class ones, and the Conservatives are apparently betting that the decision to boycott Davos will play well with its new base.
Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who attended Davos twice as prime minister, used the forum to promote the UK, hoping to convince business leaders that the UK was not cutting itself off despite leaving the European Union.
May did not attend the forum in January 2019, nor did French president Emmanuel Macron, but both leaders sent representatives.
Rupert Harrison, who previously served as chair of the government’s Council of Economic Advisers, called the decision “ridiculous”, suggesting that the Conservatives needed to “get out of campaign mode”.
He said there was nowhere like Davos where governments can make a case to “inward investors into the UK more efficiently”.
The four-day World Economic Forum, which beings in Davos, Switzerland on 21 January, describes itself as the “foremost creative force for engaging the world's top leaders in collaborative activities to shape the global, regional and industry agendas at the beginning of each year”.