Opinion: The Blairs jet off to another PR disaster

Why is it that Tony Blair, a politician who knows more about good PR than anyone I know, goes completely bonkers every summer and commits PR suicide? Instead of choosing to pay for his own family holiday like the rest of the nation, he embarks on the most monstrous freebie tour of Mediterranean millionaires' haunts.

The reason why this annual PR disaster continues is that Blair agreed some time ago that his wife could decide the summer holiday schedule.

Cherie loves nothing better than living in luxury at other people's expense.

When Geoffrey Robinson offered the Blairs use of his Tuscan villa, Cherie didn't hesitate. She was even said to want the former paymaster general's swanky apartment in the south of France for her entourage.

Even the PM's worst enemies wouldn't deny the man a long break to help him recharge, but staying in Sir Cliff Richard's Barbados villa with boating excursions organised by JCB tycoon Sir Anthony Bamford must have voters wondering whether this is really a Labour prime minister.

I suppose if that was the only holiday that Cherie had planned for her family then the media may have made little comment, but one destination clearly isn't enough for the first bag lady. Not content with 18 days in the Caribbean, it was back to Tuscany for five days at Prince Girolamo Strozzi's 50-room villa. Unbelievably, the PM then arranged to meet Silvio Berlusconi for two days at his Sardinian pad. You get the feeling that the Blairs would be happy to stay anywhere.

Just to top off their summer vacation, Tony and Cherie plan to stop off at the Olympics in Greece.

It would be difficult to invent a more PR-damaging itinerary.

Most British leaders have understood that holidays aren't just important for a rest. Harold Wilson was the master. Who could forget the annual photocall with wife Mary at their rented Isles of Scilly cottage? Even Margaret Thatcher made sure that her week off with Dennis in Devon was duly recorded by the media.

Surely the PM can't believe that making donations to charity instead of paying for his hols will placate the public? Maybe he doesn't read the papers when he's away so doesn't know what a kicking he's getting back home. I know he would prefer a month in France to jetting off around the world - he should put his foot down and spend next year in Provence.

This, though, would give the news-hungry hacks even less to write about in August.

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