Blair in Barbados: no more worries for a week or two?

David Randall and Simon O'Hagan help the Blairs pack for their holiday at Cliff's ranch
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We have some good news and some bad news for Tony Blair. The upside is that at last his holiday in Barbados is beckoning; the downside is that it may not be quite the trouble-free break in paradise that he and his family are expecting.

First of all there is the climate, which can, on occasions, rather belie its idyllic reputation. The Blairs will be visiting in the middle of the humid rainy season, which can produce the occasional severe flood, and hurricanes are regular occurrences.

It is true that the last plague of locusts hit the island in 1663, but knowing the way this year's gone for Blair, it would be a bold man who bet against them striking again.

And in a way, they might. For even as Euan, Nicky, Kathryn and little Leo look forward to that day's fun and games, they may find one of the world's more notorious pests descending on them.

Fleet Street's finest spoilsports will be at the gates, clamouring for photo opportunities, and a few of their more resourceful operatives may even be alighting on trees and the stouter vegetation, seeking a vantage point.

And then there is the house where the Blairs will be staying, lent to them in return for a donation to charity by Sir Cliff Richard, owner of one of Britain's more notable perma-tans, and the man responsible for such contributions to culture as "Milk Cow Blues" and "Congratulations".

Sir Cliff's spread is in a gated and guarded community in the Sugar Hill area, a few miles inland from the island's west coast. It boasts six bedrooms, swimming pool and a tennis court, and its weekly rental on the open market would be around £10,000 a week. Very New Labour. Somewhat less so are some of Barbados's laws. Capital punishment is still on statute books, gay sex is outlawed and, instead of foxes, green monkeys are hunted with a bounty of $7.50 (£4.60) per tail. No anti-hunting bill there, then.

And democracy rears its ugly head, too; for in theory nowhere on the island is there a private beach. But all is not lost. Some of the best sands have hotels built around them, in effect limiting access to those staying there or arriving by boat. Sandy Lane, a few miles from where the Blairs are staying, is one of the most exclusive hotels on the island. "The Blairs could come and use our beach," a hotel manager says. "But they wouldn't be able to use any of our sun loungers."

Lunch at Sandy Lane might provide them with a passport to the beach, and the Sandy Lane buffet is the top eating tip from Michael Winner. If Mr Blair has difficulty getting a table, says Mr Winner, "he can mention my name." Being linked to Mr Winner may be the least of the Blairs' problems. Barbados acts as a haven for several other notorious characters. They include Sir David Frost, Davina McCall, Terry Venables, and Jeremy Beadle. If Mr Beadlegets it into his head to spring one of his famous surprises, turning up on the Blairs' doorstep in an Andrew Gilligan mask, for instance, or if they have any other need to seek sanctuary, there is a choice of six Catholic places of worship on the island.

There is also a Brighton, a Hastings and a Worthing, none of them place names that one naturally associates with the Blairs. And there may lay the final downside of their holiday venue. For as Britons prepare for their own holidays in communities that are ungated, unguarded and lack Barbados's population of gold taps, their minds may stray back to memories of Harold Wilson sloshing about in Scilly Isles rock pools in his baggy shorts. But then he was a more regular sort of guy.

But Barbados is used to celebrities. James Henderson, the editor of the Cadogan Guide to the Caribbean, says the locals are indifferent to who is holidaying on their island. "Even hard-core celebrities can get away with wandering about without anyone troubling them."

With these arrangements the Blairs are hoping to avoid the financial controversy that has dogged them on previous holidays. In August 1999, a holiday at a government-owned villa near Pisa ended with Mr Blair being labelled a "scrounger" for accepting hospitality which cost Italian taxpayers £20,000.

In December 2001 it emerged that part of a holiday to Egypt, worth £5,000, had been paid for by the Egyptian government. The Prime Minister said he had donated the value of the flights and accommodation to charity.

The Blairs left their modest rented villa near Toulouse last summer to accept an invitation to stay with one of France's most powerful businessmen, Alain-Dominique Perrin. MPs subsequently demanded to know whether Mr Blair intervened in an inquiry into British American Tobacco, one of whose biggest shareholders is a firm owned by M. Perrin.

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