Cherie Blair thrust in the spotlight by book and film

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The Independent Online

Her former boyfriends have been quizzed, her childhood raked over and her relationship with her husband subjected to hours of investigation.

After years of managing to avoid the limelight, Cherie Blair is set to face unprecedented, and unwanted, scrutiny next month when a new biography and documentary film about her life appear. Last night, senior Government sources accused those behind the project of being interested primarily in "money-making" after it emerged that the book will be released on the eve of the Labour Party conference.

The Independent has learned that the unauthorised biography will be published on 30 September for maximum impact, while the documentary, entitled The Real Cherie Blair, will be broadcast on Channel 4 soon after.

Both the book and the film are the work of Linda McDougall, the wife of the Labour MP Austin Mitchell, and follow more than a year's research into the past of the Prime Minister's wife. They will concentrate on her childhood, the impact of her father Tony's decision to walk out on the family when Cherie was five, and on her relationships before she met Mr Blair.

Mrs Blair refused to co- operate with the biography and it is understood that none of her close friends or relatives has participated in the project. Two former boyfriends, who are still in touch with Mrs Blair, have refused to take part without her permission.

Both Mr Blair and his wife are fiercely protective of the privacy of their family life and Downing Street repeatedly warns the media against revealing details about their four children. Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's former official spokesman, and his partner Fiona Millar, who is Mrs Blair's most trusted aide, have also formed a formidable team in protecting the family from unwanted intrusion.

The Blairs won a High Court injunction last year against a Sunday newspaper in relation to the unauthorised publication of the story of a former nanny, Ros Mark. However, Downing Street vigorously denies claims that there has been any attempt to take legal action against the book, preferring instead to trust in the good sense of Mrs Blair's friends not to participate.

Number 10 said last night that there was "never, ever" any suggestion of legal action against the book and insiders said that such claims had been invented to boost publicity for the project. "Let's be honest, the people behind this are doing this for the money. It's not some sort of public service," said one senior source. "Cherie doesn't want a biography written about her, she's a private person and doesn't see why it shouldn't remain that way. No one who is genuinely close to Cherie would cooperate."

The biography is being published by the Westminster bookshop Politico's and will be serialised for a six-figure sum in a national newspaper ahead of the Labour conference.

A government source lamented what is seen as a trend in political biography. "There seems to be a trend these days that spurious biographies which couldn't command a real advance from a publisher are instead funded by serialisations by newspapers after a cheap story," the source said.

As a high-flying QC, Mrs Blair is the first wife of a Prime Minister to have her own career but she has largely succeeded in avoiding a high public profile. Previous examples of her being thrown into the limelight occurred last year when the Tory Home Affairs spokesman, John Bercow, compared her to Lady Macbeth and critics claimed she was set to profit from the Government's incorporation of the Human Rights Act into British law.

Downing Street's worst fears about the book appeared to be confirmed when Ms McDougall let it be known that she felt that Mrs Blair was "greedy" because she lamented the fact that the family's Islington home was now worth much more than when they sold it. Ms McDougall also claimed she wanted to "unlock the mystery of the silent woman at the Prime Minister's side" and accused Mrs Blair of acting "like royalty" over the biography.

Ms McDougall said: "She has got a cheek to say she's not a public person. She is increasingly in the public eye. I am an admirer of hers and people genuinely do want to know more about her.

"My aim is not to dig dirt, but a credible biography cannot avoid the human details of the person's life," she said.

Ms McDougall's previous book, Westminster Women, was also a source of concern as it revealed details of the private lives of Robin Cook and his ex-wife Margaret.

However, sources close to the book claim that it reflects the affection felt for Mrs Blair and presents a positive portrait of a woman who has battled against the odds to become a role model of a modern working mother. Ian Dale, owner of Politico's, stressed that it would be fair. "It was never going to be a hatchet job. That was never the intention and it only gained currency because of Linda's previous book with Margaret Cook," he said.

Among the new facts discovered by Ms McDougall was exactly how Mrs Blair got her name. The film maker tracked down Cherie Hoyle, a Welsh schoolgirl who Mr and Mrs Booth had befriended when they were staying in digs while in repertory theatre.

According to the book, Mr Booth promised the girl that if he ever had a daughter he would name her Cherie. Mrs Hoyle, who now lives in Australia, records her pleasure at the honour.

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