A resort fit for a Prime Minister?

Perfect for a Prime Minister - a get-away-from-it-all holiday in Southwold. Lynne Mortimer reconnoitres in advance of Gordon Brown's (alleged) arrival.

Lynne Mortimer

Perfect for a Prime Minister - a get-away-from-it-all holiday in Southwold. Lynne Mortimer reconnoitres in advance of Gordon Brown's (alleged) arrival.

WHAT could be better than the glorious Southwold sands basking in the east coast sunshine?

With no glaring reminders of the deteriorating economic situation, national security threats, global warming, conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, a looming property slump and food shortages, it is the ideal holiday destination for a beleaguered Prime Minister.


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In Southwold you can always look on the bright side of life.

Only the ultra sensitive would read anything into the first road sign as you turn off the A12 northbound towards the fashionable seaside town. It says “Hidden dip” and one hopes that two dips don't amount to a depression.

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But you know you're in prime non-conformist Suffolk when you reach Southwold and see a sign that points you to a brewery and a Methodist church. Once upon a time these rivals for the hearts and souls of men might have objected but all is love and peace in this thriving market town by the sea.

At Adnams' Swan hotel the Admiral's suite is occupied but probably not by the PM. A room with a view out over the sea - a telescope is provided for a close-up - it is the ultimate in genteel accommodation.

It is more likely that Mr Brown would go for a week's rental in a well-appointed holiday cottage with, hopefully, an annex for the security guys who, I presume, would have to accompany the Browns wherever they went.

The family - Gordon, his wife Sarah, and their two sons John, five in October, and James Fraser, two tomorrow - would be able to spend glorious, lazy days on the sandy beach. The boys can paddle and dad will help them build a nice little sand starter home with a bucket and spade.

Up on the prom is beach hut number 10. All it needs is a pinkish new labour makeover (currently it's more Lib Dem yellow at the front with pale blue Conservative on the sides), a policeman outside and a bit of security railing to keep the press at bay and it will be a home from home.

Although the Chancellor's hut at number11, next door, is also closed there are several people enjoying the warm weather by opening up their beach huts. Down on the beach there are a number of families basking in the sunshine and a brave few have ventured into the briny.

Rather than read the newspapers Mr Brown could squish his toes into the soft, clean sand and peruse the monthly Southwold Gazette which is a full 40 pages and, in the July edition, includes a recipe for chocolate salami (no sausage involved).

This is a little bit of heaven on Earth just to the north of the pier where the distant dome of Sizewell B cannot be seen and so the Prime Minister will not be reminded of the debate over the future of nuclear power. It is a place to chill out and, for the most powerful man in the country, there is time to remember what it's like to be an ordinary man.

Short sleeved shirts, shorts and sandals are great levellers.

Jumping around in the surf today is seven-year-old Aleksa who admits the sea is a bit cold but is still keen to get back in the water. Mum and dad Tristan and Sonya have brought Aleksa and her 14-year-old brother William to Southwold for a week's holiday… from their home in Vienna.

So it isn't only the British who are choosing to spend their vacations in the UK. With Euro stronger against the pound it is becoming a more popular holiday destination for the rest of Europe.

Sonya is Scottish but her great grandmother came from Woodbridge and so the family are keen to see as much as they can of the area before they return home to Austria .

Are they finding enough to do? “Plenty,” says Sonya, “I wish we were staying longer.”

As well as the pleasures of the beach and the sea front, the family has been exploring castles. They've been to Orford and Framlingham is next on the list.

Sonya says if Mr Brown was to come to Southwold for his holiday he would have a relaxing break: “He won't have to bother about politics.”

A few yards up the beach, Evie, who is nearly three, is earnestly constructing sandcastles with an assortment of implements. She's here with grandparents Clive and Diane Cooper, from Stowmarket.

“It's nice on the prom for the kiddies,” says Mrs Cooper, recommending the Punch and Judy show.

They wouldn't mind at all if Gordon Brown and his family and entourage were on the beach… “as long as they kept themselves to themselves,” added Mr Cooper.

If, during his stay, Gordon Brown does manage to slip out for a pint, he'll be made welcome at local hostelries. At the Lord Nelson one lunchtime drinker says he'd happily take the Prime Minister round to the Conservative Club.

Behind the bar is John Illston who says a Prime Minister and his security team won't faze pubs in Southwold.

“We had this press before when Jim Prior (former MP for Lowestoft and Waveney) was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In those days the local police used to take over (security) once he was in residence (at his home).

“He had armed guards,” says Mr Illston.

An unscientific poll of the people in the Lord Nelson showed that nought per cent of the clientele would be inclined to offer to buy the PM a drink with one person adding that it should be Mr Brown that got the pints in.

With the words: “The hottest rumour is that he'll be staying in Walberswick” ringing in my ears, I left the pub and headed for the pier.

Southwold Pier is the hub of family entertainment, the highlight of which is the Under the Pier Show, squarely sited on top of the pier. The myriad amusement machines are the brainchildren of engineer Tim Hunkin and there are a number that Gordon Brown (and indeed the nation) might find fascinating.

Tim demonstrates the frisking machine which could well save thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money as holidaymakers are security checked during the PM's stay.

The Booth of Truth is a fortune-telling machine which, if the Prime Minister is short of ideas, could well determine the content of the next Queen's Speech.

An irresistible opportunity to be recognised for all the hard work and stress of his public role costs just £1.10p. In this case cash for honours costs, it says, a guinea (although I think, to be pedantic, that would be £1.05). You merely place the money in the slot and turn the handle to be rewarded with a medal.

Sending postcards home is a necessary holiday ritual and there wasn't a cheeky one to be found in Southwold as far as I could see - so some of Prime Minister Brown's cabinet colleagues are likely to be a bit disappointed. But there are plenty of splendid gift shops and at Treasure Chest Souvenirs I found a number of reasonably priced presents that Mr Brown could buy for his fellow ministers.

There is a Southwold branded salt cellar for those Government moments that need to be taken with a large pinch of salt; a shell, for his quieter colleagues to come out of; a mug; and a bath preparation that offers inspiration and exhilaration - a communal bath might be in order. Then there is a coaster that Mr Brown can read while sipping his cuppa and listening to Alistair Darling's latest economic forecasts. It says: “I'd rather be at the seaside.”

Beside the glorious traditional pier is a traditional Punch and Judy show where Mr Punch can be found wielding his stick and no doubt uttering his immortal line: “That's the way to do it!”

Let's hope Mr Brown doesn't go to him for advice on how to run the country.

There is one slight problem about Southwold for the current PM. A famous former resident of the town had the surname Blair.

It is the sort of news that could cause a shiver to run down the back of a man who, for so long, lived in the shadow of Blair.

The Southwold Blair is, of course, Eric not Tony.

Eric Blair, best known under his pen name of George Orwell, wrote the novel 1984 - a great holiday read.

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