Blair admits his Barbados break

Key points

Tony Blair's holiday location was to be kept secret

• Mr Blair attended a public ceremony on Barbados

• The press have disclosed Cliff Richard's house is the holiday residence

Story in full DOWNING Street was immersed in a security farce yesterday when it declared that Tony Blair's mystery holiday destination could suddenly be revealed - but the identity of his superstar host should be kept secret.

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No 10 had earlier insisted that the destination be withheld from the public for security reasons, despite it being reported by foreign media and available on the internet.

But yesterday it said that it was permissible to reveal the Prime Minister was holidaying on the Caribbean island of Barbados after he decided to attend a public government function to honour local veterans.

But, in a bizarre move, Downing Street insisted the fact Mr Blair had stayed at the home of Sir Cliff Richard - an open secret on the island and known to many in the UK - should still be kept from the public.

For almost three weeks, Downing Street had clung to its insistence that British media outlets should not reveal quite where Mr Blair and his family were on holiday, even though the information was widely available.

The "request" that British editors should suppress information widely available to the rest of the world was based on what Mr Blair's officials said was the advice of police and intelligence officials responsible for the Prime Minister's protection.

Regardless of its provenance, the curb on disclosing Mr Blair's location - a restriction described as "farcical" by some media commentators - was lifted yesterday as a result of the Prime Minister's own actions.

On Sunday evening, Mr Blair attended a public ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the contribution made by Barbadians to the Allied cause. He had been invited to attend by the Barbados Legion.

As a result, David Hill, Mr Blair's communications director, who had originally requested the news blackout, wrote again to editors saying that the restriction on identifying Barbados could now be lifted. The reason, he said, was that the open-air service had been a public engagement and it was therefore fair for news organisations to be able to report its location. Mr Blair's security advisers accepted that, Mr Hill said.

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His request that British media outlets continue to observe a self-denying ordinance on identifying where Mr Blair and his family are staying on the Caribbean island is likely to be of only limited effectiveness.

International media organisations have reported where the Blairs are staying on holiday, and several British newspapers - including the usually pro-Blair Sun - have dropped heavy hints he is staying at the home of a famous millionaire and "bachelor boy."

This is the third consecutive year Mr Blair and his family have spent their summer break in Barbados. Last year, they stayed at Sir Cliff's villa before visiting the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Blair arrived in Barbados on 6 August, two days after his wife and children, and will stay until the end of this week. The holiday also included a trip by yacht to another island, thought to be Mustique, the private island beloved of millionaires and aristocrats, including the late Princess Margaret.

During his absence from Britain, Mr Blair has faced some criticism for not attending the funeral of Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary. His absence from the London events to mark VJ-Day on Sunday also raised eyebrows, and there was speculation at Westminster yesterday that Mr Hill had lifted the blackout with news of the Barbados ceremony in order to pre-empt any further criticism of the Prime Minister.

Downing Street officials were at a loss to explain the apparent contradictions in their position over Mr Blair's location.

For example, if the Prime Minister's presence in Barbados was a security-sensitive secret, how did the Barbados Legion know he was on the island in order to invite him to the ceremony? "It is a small place and obviously people get to know he's there," replied a spokeswoman.

She was unable to explain why, if revealing Mr Blair's location before yesterday would have jeopardised his security, doing so now would not put him at increased risk.

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Last night, Phil Hall, a former News of the World editor and now a PR consultant, said the attempted blackout by Downing Street had been "farcical."

He said: "This shows incredible naivete on the part of Blair and his handlers," he said.


DOWNING Street's attempt to keep Mr Blair's holiday location a complete secret was always doomed to failure in a world of internet news.

Leaving aside the 300-odd people who shared a British Airways flight to Bridgetown airport with the Blairs on August 6, anyone with access to the internet and a little curiosity would be able to locate the Prime Minister without too much difficulty.

Anyone in the Caribbean with a radio would have found the task even less taxing.

Mr Blair's presence in Barbados has been public knowledge across the Caribbean since even before he arrived. On 4 August, the Barbados-based Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, reported that Mr Blair's family had flown in from London for a holiday. The story is still on the CBC website.

Nor was that information confined to the Caribbean. DEBKAfile, an Israel-based website that specialises in intelligence and security matters reported as early as 25 July that Mr Blair would holiday in Barbados.

And on August 9, The Age, a Melbourne-based newspaper edited by Andrew Jaspan, a former Scotsman and Sunday Herald editor, carried a feature about the Blairs that referring to their fondness for "Cliff Richards' Barbados retreat on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean."