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S-factor holiday for Blair's minister

Not long ago, a holiday in Tuscany was virtually compulsory for any self-respecting New Labour acolyte. To be seen anywhere else was dangerously off-message. Then, like a herd of wildebeest, they all stampeded to the south of France whence the great leader Tony was enjoying pastures new. For a while, baguettes replaced spaghetti alle vongole as fuel for the New Labour project.

But now, it seems, the herd has been dispersed, all discipline lost. As Tony, Cherie and family make themselves comfy in Sir Cliff Richard's pad in Barbados this week, Education Secretary Charles Clarke has forsaken last year's rather adventurous choice of Estonia for a couple of weeks in Spain.

Meanwhile, schools minister David Miliband is showing a dangerously Brownite tendency by taking his holiday back in his constituency in South Shields, while Ivan Lewis is showing more loyalty to Tony with a holiday in Florida, just a bracing swim across the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea if his leader calls.

Children's minister Margaret Hodge has also chosen the Caribbean but her destination, from a New Labour point of view, is surely most perplexing: the socialist republic of Cuba. No doubt Margaret will be taking in a few Fidel speeches about Bush and Blair's imperialism and paying a flying visit to our boys in Guantanamo Bay.

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