Blairs have the right to privacy on their holidays

Before the sad news broke of Cherie's miscarriage this week, at the end of the Blairs' long weekend in Cumbria, the Westminster media had already reached the view that the Blairs' British holiday was yet another stunt designed to show the PM's support for UK tourism.

Which is why the the PM's plea for privacy for the remainder of their holiday abroad is already falling on deaf ears. Even as the ink was drying on the first print-run, the media pack were on their way to the South of France. Blair has, after all, traditionally made more of his family's holidays in PR terms than any other occupant of Number 10.

Despite Cherie's loss, the negative coverage to date is well deserved - if Alastair Campbell thought it would be good PR for Tony and Cherie to start their holiday in England, he was wrong.

I can remember Harold Wilson's yearly holiday in the Isles of Scilly, where he would annually be photographed smoking his pipe and walking his dog. Of course, Wilson saw the PR value in his yearly trip, and made a big thing about it. Few can even remember what Margaret Thatcher used to do (maybe she didn't have any holidays).

The Blair family's holidays have been a PR disaster ever since they decided to take a 'freebie' in Tuscany from my old friend Geoffrey Robinson when Labour was in opposition. Geoffrey is one of the most generous men I have ever met but someone should have told Blair it would be better all round if his family paid for its own holiday.

It was too tempting, however, for them to enjoy Geoffrey's hospitality - I should know, having done it myself, but then I'm not an elected public servant.

The publicity for that holiday was huge and none of it good. While most Britons had scrimped and saved for their two weeks in Spain, or even Blackpool, here was the future PM and family enjoying luxury at someone else's expense.

Various freebie holidays have since been taken abroad, though Robinson's hospitality was shunned once he became an embarrassment to them.

Ever since the first freebie Tuscany break, the Blairs' holiday has been a big story. The Blairs now claim to pay for their trips abroad but still suffer because every journalist is looking for a new angle - usually negative - on the story.

This year they may be spared the media's worst excesses, but the PM should have realised that perhaps it may have been a good idea to take their main holiday in Britain for a change. They could have stayed in the Lord Chancellor's castle in Scotland - I can imagine how much they would have enjoyed the midges.

The Tories don't seem to have the same problem, but that's because no-one cares where Iain Duncan Smith goes on holiday. Some hacks I asked didn't even know, though apparently he's in Italy.

The Blairs should end this holidays nonsense by stating once and for all that their family holidays are private. If the press tried to spoil things, the family would not just have support from the Press Complaints Commission, but from the public, too.

The Blairs could do worse than follow the example of the rest of the Cabinet, who don't make a fuss about holidays. Gordon Brown doesn't go to the library in Washington for his hols, as some have cruelly suggested, but jets off to Cape Cod with Sarah every year to play tennis where no-one bothers them.

Margaret and Leo Beckett tow their caravan around France. Now that would be a story - the PM staying the night in a caravan.

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