Beware the lure of the freebie holiday

If you go on holiday with friends, inevitably you fall out over yelping children, or who has to fill the dishwasher. This autumn's controversy over Peter Mandelson, George Osborne, a rich Rothschild and an even richer Russian is gripping. Rarely do holiday misunderstandings culminate in a miffed villa owner writing to The Times.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

Would it be too ghastly to take the wife and kids away, and if you don't own one already, hire a villa, and pay for it all by yourself? Politics and holidays have always been under scrutiny - look at the Brown/Cameron photoshoots this year. It makes sense to play safe.

The Blairs loved a summertime freebie. They relished the mix of sun and pop stars, all for free, but it never looked particularly good.

In 2002 David Willetts and his wife accepted a stay in a costless villa from 'friends'. This absurdly ended in a court case. The details are too ridiculous but it should be highlighted that the legal proceedings culminated in the legendary Daily Mail headline: 'David Willetts slept in my bed.' Is any free holiday home, even if it is just an hour away from Nice airport, worth it?

In 2005, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark took the unusual decision of inviting Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell and his family to spend New Year with her in her holiday home in Majorca. Her level of bias was questioned. They had apparently been friends for a while, which is of little consequence. McConnell was a politician she interviewed regularly. How can you give an impartial interview to someone you saw in novelty pyjamas and party hat the week before?

When you are in a senior political position and your party is ahead in the polls it is worth being careful. The lure of a Bond-style yacht must be enticing but leave the polished decks to Berlusconi and Kid Rock.

My advice? Go on holiday, arranged by yourself, and do what everyone else does - take fraught wife, lose suitcase, spend time with your kids not billionaires, get bitten by insects not former European commissioners. A holiday should be a holiday - stay away from Ouzo, Russians and if you go with friends, pick them carefully.

Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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