How often do you travel?
I’ve recently been to south-western France and Croatia with my wife. I hadn’t been to Croatia before and I wanted to see Dubrovnik and found it absolutely fascinating. I also visit the US regularly – I know a lot of politicians on The Hill [Capitol Hill, Washington DC].
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
I like to go somewhere which has a touch of history, and is scenic so I can paint, if possible – I painted a canal scene the last time I went to Venice. I also like to take a good book: my favourite work of fiction is Lawrence Durrell’s brilliant but sadly rather out-of-favour The Alexandria Quartet.
Where did you go on holiday as a child?
We were travelling before I was born, as it were, because my father was in the RAF and always being sent somewhere. So I was born in Scotland but my father was out in America for the first few years of my life, and was then stationed in Germany. But I remember going on a couple of family holidays to Italy, where two of my sisters once lived, very fondly. But in the UK, Scotland is my choice of destination.
Your most adventurous travel experience?
When I was serving in the Scots Guards, I flew out on a VC10 to Salisbury in what was then Rhodesia at the time of the Lancaster House Agreement, as part of a small advance force before the arrival of the Commonwealth Monitoring Force. But it was seen as a rather provocative act and none of the African nations would give us “over-fly” rights – so we had to fly via the Ascension Islands and then spiral down to Salisbury to avoid being hit by a missile because there was still a war going on. That was pretty hairy!
The most remote place you’ve been?
Alberta, Canada, during my Army days, when I went trekking in the far north of the province – real wilderness country. I’ve visited some pretty remote parts of Georgia in the US, too. The state is bigger than England but has just 10million people, and still boasts a lot of woodland and sparsely populated mountainous areas.
Your most luxurious travel experience?
I think I might have got upgraded once or twice to first class in the past.
The Algonquin, a historic Manhattan hotel dating back to the 1900s with real character. The New Yorker magazine used to hold their editorial meetings there, and it has always been patronised by writers, and you still find all sorts of interesting people drifting in and out. So many hotels
Worst travel experience?
I spent a couple of months in Italy when I was 19 and had long hair – hard as it is to believe! – working as a waiter and a dishwasher. I’d try to find a bed wherever I could, but often ended up sleeping in the back of a friend’s Fiat 600 – not to be recommended if you’re six feet tall, as I am.
Iain Duncan Smith MP
Best travel tip?
Don’t get “train fever” – that is, panic about missing trains and that sort of thing. I’ve always been a calm traveller. Also, if you’re in the Tropics, stick to bottled water – so long as the seal hasn’t been broken – and be careful about eating things that have not been cooked.
What do you hate about holidays?
I hate having to come back at the end and unpackmy bags.
I’d love to go to New Zealand’s South Island, with its mountains, fjords and wildlife – I’ve been told it’s absolutely spectacular. Iain Duncan Smith MP is the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Conservative Party leader. He will be speaking at the Centre for Social Justice fringe event on October 3 at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
Iain Duncan Smith’s travels have taken him to Delhi, above, and Alberta, Canada, below