It was Harold Wilson who first turned a Labour leader's choice of holiday destination into a political statement. Before he took office in 1964, the country was accustomed to the idea that the Prime Minister went grouse shooting in Scotland every August. Wilson's choice of the Scilly Isles was his way of saying that he was just like everybody else – because although not many could actually afford a Scilly Islands' holiday, most people felt they might be able to.
This summer, five candidates are engaged in a drawn-out contest to be the next Labour leader. By agreement, there is a ceasefire this week, and with it a brief chance for a vacation, but, of course, as they choose where to spend their well-earned rest, they are anxious not to indulge in any extravagance as the nation endures economic hardship.
The example they cannot afford to follow is the one set by Tony and Cherie Blair, for whom a holiday was a statement of a different kind – a demonstration that New Labour had no hang-ups about hanging out with the seriously rich. Silvio Berlusconi's villa on Sardinia, Cliff Richard's £3m pad on Barbados, Sir Richard Branson's game reserve in South Africa – there was not a rich man's home too luxurious for the Blairs to borrow.
The difficulty with Gordon Brown, of course, was getting him to go on holiday at all. For his three summer breaks as PM, he and Sarah first chose Dorset (but he abandoned that holiday to deal with the foot-and-mouth outbreak), then bucket-and-spade favourite Suffolk, and in 2009, they took a break in the Lakes and then Scotland, where Brown spent part of his time working.
If we were rating the former premiers' holidays on a "How in touch with Labour's roots are you?" scale, Brown's arrangements would merit Four Cloth Caps, while it is obvious that freeloading off Silvio Berlusconi is a Nil Cap. Only Margaret Beckett and her caravan would be worth the full Five Cloth Caps and Ferret.
Destination New England, US
Until recently, the former education secretary and his wife, Yvette Cooper, had two Cabinet ministers' salaries. They still have two MPs' wages, so can afford to fly away. They seem to have the same fondness for the north-eastern US states as Gordon Brown, who holidayed there almost every year when he was chancellor. They have hired a large camper van and are driving their three children to destinations including Boston and Maine.
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Destination Remaining coy
She campaigns as the most left-wing candidate in the field, but has never been embarrassed about accumulating money and spending it. She could afford a recession-defying break in the Seychelles, but is not going to take it. Her office said: "She might take a holiday somewhere in Britain later, but she has not got anything organised yet."
Cloth Cap Rating Awaits judgement
The older Miliband worked closely with Blair in Downing Street, and has a phalanx of the old Blairites supporting his campaign. Therefore, he is the one you might expect to be holidaying in a villa borrowed from a multi-millionaire somewhere exotic. But actually, he, his wife Louise, and their adopted sons are in a holiday cottage in a beautiful but not highly fashionable part of rural Northumberland.
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Ed has tacked to the left a bit in the campaign, creating political space between him and his older brother, so it would not have helped his image if he had jetted off somewhere plush. Besides, his other half, Justine Thornton, is expecting their second child in November, so flying would not be a good idea. They are spending 12 days on the south coast of Cornwall with their one-year-old son, Daniel.
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Destination Oban, Scotland
Since he entered the leadership race, the former Health Secretary has been on a voyage of rediscovery of his northern working-class roots. As the son of a telephone engineer, he has the most down-to-earth background. He is heading for a break near the seaside resort of Oban, on the west coast of Scotland.
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