Leading article: A postcard from the Caribbean

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The Independent Online

Before the Prime Minister left the country, the Downing Street director of communications, David Hill, wrote to news organisations to request that the location of Mr Blair's holiday should not be disclosed for security reasons. The reason the omerta can now be broken is that the Prime Minister accepted an invitation over the weekend from the Barbados Legion to attend a Second World War commemoration service. According to Downing Street, this is a public event and can therefore be reported. Nevertheless, a request still stands that the exact location of the Prime Minister in Barbados should remain confidential until Mr Blair is safely back home.

Mr Blair's holidays are always a source of contention. There are sections of public opinion that seem to believe Mr Blair should never leave his post. But Mr Blair is entitled to a break - just as anyone else is. He also has the right to a degree of privacy while on vacation. And few would seriously dispute that the British Prime Minister needs adequate security protection at this time of rampant global terrorism and especially after the London bombings.

Yet this year's request for a media blackout on Mr Blair's holiday was unreasonable and counterproductive. For one thing, the "security" excuse was less than plausible. It is odd that Mr Blair needs a greater degree of anonymity than other national leaders. The location of George Bush, Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi when they are on holiday is not a secret. Yet these men are targets for terrorists, just like Mr Blair.

It should also be noted that the Prime Minister's decision in previous years to accept the hospitality of wealthy businessmen has opened him up to justified criticism. The Blair family always makes a donation to charity in lieu of the rent they would have paid and they cover their own travel costs - but benefiting from such largesse inevitably raises the question of influence-peddling.

The suspicion will be that the media blackout was less about the Prime Minister's safety than avoiding awkward questions about whose hospitality Mr Blair has been enjoying. Since this will now be the first question on everyone's lips, Downing Street's heavy-handed tactics this summer have backfired.

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