<i>IoS</i> book of the week: Cherie Blair and her big brass neck - Reviews - Books - The Independent

IoS book of the week: Cherie Blair and her big brass neck

Extracts from her autobiography, 'Speaking for Myself', have appeared in 'The Times' all week: revelations about sex, money and royalty, not to mention New Labour, have unleashed some no-holds-barred criticism


What she said

"It was a double-decker and we went upstairs. It was completely empty and by the time we got off we knew each other better than when we'd got on. And even better the next morning."

On the start of her relationship with the future prime minister

"I began to realise... he was a very good-looking young man, tall and slim, yet broad in the shoulders. A really strong body... "

On her attraction to Tony

"Tony had been there since the induction began. It would be nice to say that his presence had made all the difference. It would be wrong. He was completely useless. My last thoughts as I went to sleep that night were of my husband: 'I hate this man.'"

On the birth of Euan in 1984

"This year I had been a little more circumspect, and had not packed my contraceptive equipment out of sheer embarrassment. As usual up there it had been bitterly cold, and what with one thing and another... "

On the unplanned conception of Leo during the Blairs' second visit to Balmoral in 1999

"I did debate about whether to talk about Leo and how he came about. It's no secret to my friends, of course. And it is rather fun."

On whether she should have written about his conception

"In early December the 'Daily Mail' ratcheted up its attacks on me. They demanded to know whether [Leo] had had the MMR vaccine. Then the 'Mirror' joined in... It's fair to say, I was in two minds. I did get Leo vaccinated, not least because it's irresponsible not to. I was adamant, however, that I would not give the press chapter and verse."

On her refusal to say, until now, that Leo had the MMR vaccine

"One evening I was at the Royal Opera House for some gala performance and was talking to [Princess Margaret] about what we'd seen, when Chris Smith came over. 'Have you met Chris Smith, our Culture Secretary, Ma'am?' I asked. She peered at him. 'And this is his partner,' I continued. 'Partner for what?' I took a breath. 'Sex, Ma'am.' She stalked off. She knew exactly what kind of partner I meant."

On royalty

"As a postscript to David Kelly's tragic death, his widow and grown-up children came to visit us at Chequers. We wanted to say personally how very sorry we were about what had happened. It was clear to me that what had made Mrs Kelly's life even more intolerable was the behaviour of the press after he had killed himself, to the point of taking pictures through their front windows, utterly failing to respect their privacy at all."

On Dr David Kelly, who killed himself after being exposed as the alleged source of claims that intelligence on Iraq had been "sexed up" to support the war

"There is a photograph of the two of us taken that morning that I keep in my study. Tony crouching among these thousands of tiny figures, me behind him, my arms around him, giving him the support he needed. 'You're a good man,' I told him as we were crouched there, the cameras whirring. 'And God knows your motives are pure, even if the consequences are not as you had hoped.'"

Describing a visit to an exhibition of terracotta statues in China after Mr Blair was asked if he had "blood on his hands" in relation to Dr Kelly's death

"Yes that was very scary, particularly since I was the person who had to support it. We had to meet the monthly payment and it was down to me. Because no one else was going to meet it, were they?"

On the "Mount Snowdon" of a mortgage on the £3.5m house in Connaught Square, London

"I think, that this girl from 15 Ferndale Road has been to Balmoral, to see the Queen, to Buckingham Palace, met the Pope, had Stevie Wonder at the White House sing 'My Cherie Amour', how lucky is that?"

On her fabulous life

"No."

On whether she has ever been invited back to No 10

What they said

"Cherie Blair's Sex-and-the-City-style gossipy titbit that she and Tony got it together on the No 74 [bus] after their first dinner, then spent the night together is supposed to do what, exactly? Fool us into believing that underneath her political scheming she's really just one of the girls? Without a blush of sluttish shame, she also tells us she was already juggling two boyfriends by then. Honestly, Cherie, go easy."

Anna Pasternak in the 'Daily Mail'

"Maybe she has done it partly because she wants the money. But mostly, one suspects, she wishes to proclaim: this is me. It is my turn. If you don't like it, get lost. She is proud of being a 21st-century woman. In her perception, this means proclaiming to the world that she bonked Tony at Balmoral; explaining the nuances of her menstrual cycle; boasting of her dislike for Princess Margaret and impatience with Princess Anne's pomposity. Conceit pervades her book."

Max Hastings in the 'Daily Mail'

"The plan, presumably, had been to abstain. But you know how it is. 'As usual up there it had been bitterly cold,' she reminds us, 'and what with one thing and another...'. Readers are invited to complete the sentence by using their imagination. Nothing is left to that faculty, though, in her graphic account of giving birth, which left her with a 'third-degree tear' and 'blood all over the place' after 'they yanked him out'. When she miscarried, she was horrified by her husband and Campbell's preoccupation with how to spin it: 'I couldn't believe it. There I was bleeding, and they were talking about what their line was going to be to the press.' But now here she is, talking us through the details herself.

Decca Aitkenhead in the 'New Statesman' on Leo's conception

"Was it really impossible for her to carry her 'contraceptive equipment' (she makes it sound as big as a toolbox) in a handbag which Balmoral staff would not molest? The passage is rude to the Queen, who allegedly keeps her house so cold that she drives the Prime Minister and his wife beneath the sheets."

Charles Moore in 'The Spectator'

"Mrs Blair has chosen to reveal considerable detail about the conception and birth of her youngest child, Leo, herself. Teenage girls are supposed to be the ones who get pregnant because they are too shy to bring up the issue of contraception with their sexual partners. One might imagine that in a relationship of the longevity and closeness of the Blairs', a hint that it was Tony's turn to provide the necessary would not have been too great a challenge."

Deborah Orr in 'The Independent'

"Cherie should have said then that Leo had had the jab. There are those who may have contracted measles or other diseases as a result of not having the MMR jab because Cherie Blair seemed to have decided against it."

Dr Rod Griffiths, former president of the Faculty of Public Health

"It's a bit late for Cherie Blair to write that her husband 'knew that David Kelly was a loyal public servant driven to despair because of the furore'. Where else was the furore created but in her husband's office, with all that wicked nonsense being fed to the media that Dai was a Walter Mitty character and so on? Cherie Blair should be ashamed of herself. It's somehow so typical of the Blairs to make use of Dai's death to show the world what a wonderful man Tony Blair is. So far as I'm concerned my brother-in-law's death was caused by what went on at No 10 and what they said about him."

Derek Vawdrey, the brother of Dr David Kelly's widow, Janice

"Vilification has dogged Cherie Blair; she refers to it in the memoir as a 'grinding on an industrial scale' and complains 'whatever I did, I couldn't win'. Her long-time adviser, Fiona Millar, did have a solution. She told Blair to lower her profile, not raise it, and concentrate on her career as an esteemed employment and human rights barrister. Millar left Downing Street soon afterwards."

Peter Stanford, in 'The Daily Telegraph'

"If she wants to tread this path of making money by outrageous comments, that is up to her. But I don't think this is a job for a judge. It shows a complete lack of any kind of decency."

Former judge Gerald Butler QC

"As a Friesian weighing 1.37 tons applies to the 'Guinness Book of World Records' to be declared Britain's biggest cow, there is fierce competition for the title from Cherie Blair. Mrs Blair's memoir is called 'Speaking For Myself', though a better title might have been Poor Me. Grab the Kleenex now, as Cherie tells the heartrending story of how a plucky little QC, pulling in less than £350,000 per annum, found herself supporting a mortgage the size of Mount Snowdon. An aide close to the Blairs once briefed that Gordon Brown was 'psychologically flawed'. On the evidence of her memoir, I'm afraid it is Mrs Gobby who is knitting with only one needle."

Allison Pearson in the 'Daily Mail'

"[Sarah Brown] tends her family, runs her charity and supports Third World midwives. I doubt she's having much fun right now, with an exhausted and much-insulted husband; I doubt that a posse of dress designers, Eurotrash villa-owners and slinky masseuses on the make are there to fawn on her. But on the other hand Mrs Brown has not exposed herself as a vain, self-regarding, shallow-thinking viper. And probably never will. That thought might cheer her up."

Libby Purves in 'The Times'

"Welcome to the twisted, delusional world of Cherie Blair as nauseatingly described in her memoirs ... She said the reason she wrote 'Speaking for Myself' was so we could see what she was really like. Well, in that regard, she has succeeded quite spectacularly. She is shameless, hypocritical, vain, arrogant and grasping."

Amanda Platell in the 'Daily Mail'

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