Mandelson under fire as Blair Properties Inc eyes villa

Mr Mandelson, the EU Trade commissioner, has been accused of neglecting his responsibilities as the "bra wars" intensify and European retailers claim they face crisis. Tight new European quotas on clothing imports have led to huge stockpiles at European ports.

But rather than lead negotiations from Brussels, the commissioner has reportedly spent much of August relaxing in Capri and the Bay of Naples with his partner, Reinaldo da Silva. Last week they were spotted in the front row of the Pompeii opera, a sight which prompted at least two Sunday newspapers to carry either huge pictures of this event, indignant headlines, or both.

The Blair's summer break has generated even more interest, with added speculation about their whereabouts (concealed for security reasons) until Mr Blair himself decided to reveal they were in Barbados. Now they are said to be eyeing up a luxury villa in a gated community on the island to add to their burgeoning portfolio of properties. The couple already own a £3.65m Georgian townhouse in London, a Victorian house in Co Durham and two flats in Bristol.

In Barbados, the Blairs are enjoying cocktail parties on luxury yachts with millionaire City friends, limbo dancing at barbecue parties, and private excursions for secluded swims near uninhabited local islands.

According to reports yesterday, the couple have been bitten by the Caribbean bug since they arrived on 4 August. It quotes an unnamed "senior government official" who claimed the Blairs have shown an interest in villas in the Royal Westmoreland estate, built on a former sugar plantation around a professional-level 18-hole golf course. It boasts " colonial-style villas, many with their own pool set within fabulous, mature gardens in a tapestry of brilliant colours". Among its owners are tennis player Virginia Wade and former Masters golf champion Ian Woosnam.

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