Blairs retaliate by refusing media any holiday snaps

Tony Blair announced yesterday that he and his family would not pose for photographs at the start of their summer holiday, an apparent retaliation over publication of photographs of the christening of his son Leo, at the weekend.

Tony Blair announced yesterday that he and his family would not pose for photographs at the start of their summer holiday, an apparent retaliation over publication of photographs of the christening of his son Leo, at the weekend.

The Prime Minister, his wife Cherie and their children Euan, Nicky, Kathryn and Leo leave for their three-week break in Italy and France on Saturday.

But Downing Street made clear that the practice of recent years to arrange group family photographs would no longer apply this year and warned the press not to buy paparrazo pictures either.

The decision came as Mr Blair wrote to the Press Complaints Commission yesterday to "seek guidance" in the wake of the controversy over photographs of Leo's christening on Saturday.

The couple had appealed for privacy prior to the event in Mr Blair's constituency in Sedgefield, County Durham, but several newspapers published pictures showing them and their 10-week-old son.

Downing Street said that a formal complaint would not be submitted but it wanted the PCC to clarify the section of its code stating that photos are not to be published without parental permission.

The Prime Minister's spokesman stressed that Mr Blair did not want to be "churlish or heavy handed" and realised that there was a real dilemma for newspapers which wanted to publish what seemed to be inoffensive pictures.

However, the decision to cancel the holiday photo-call was seen by the press last night as a petulant form of punishment.

Whatever the reaction of the tabloids to the new edict, the last few weeks have seen Downing Street lose its once sure touch with the media when it comes to the First Family. It was Mr Blair who decided to break with tradition and allow a photo-call when he first went on holiday after the general election in 1997.

The Prime Minister, wearing jeans, was pictured hugging Euan and Kathryn affectionately as the Blairs posed in Tuscany as just another normal English family abroad. In 1998, the family were again snapped in a similarly staged shot, although last year just Mr Blair and Cherie and not the children were photographed.

Downing Street has always stressed that the Blairs want their children's privacy to be observed by the press, but this year has seen their instructions tested to the limit.

Mrs Blair in particular became uncomfortable with the press attention at the time of the birth of Leo, a discomfort that worsened when Euan hit the headlines after his arrest for drunkenness last month.

It is understood that Cherie's desire to protect her brood lies behind the recent hardening of Downing Street's stance over Leo's christening and the cancellation of the annual holiday picture.

Mr Blair's spokesman had given a stern warning last Friday that no newspaper should print pictures of Leo.

Comments