Cherie uses eBay to sell Tony's autograph for £10

With her QC's salary and a multimillionaire husband who commands five-figure sums for after-dinner speeches, Cherie Blair could hardly be described as hard up. But in these troubled economic times, it seems that every little helps.

The former prime minister's wife has been caught selling her husband's signature on eBay for £10. An initial asking price of £25 failed to garner any bids.

The unusual auction was discovered by a fellow eBay user who had previously sold items to Mrs Blair and had kept an eye on her personal profile. A spokesperson for the barrister admitted that she had been the seller of the autograph, but claimed she had been trying to undermine other sellers auctioning their own Tony Blair signatures.

"Cherie Blair was cross that people were selling Tony Blair's signature when you can get one for free," her spokesman said. "She was trying to undermine the market and as soon as someone bought it, she refunded it straight away to make the point."

The revelation will nevertheless be embarrassing to the Blairs, who have often had to defend themselves from accusations that they have cashed in on the former Prime Minister's prominence.

Earlier this month a Freedom of Information request revealed that Mr Blair had chosen to take a number of items, given to him by world leaders and celebrities, with him when he left Number 10. The presents included nine watches from Silvio Berlusconi and a guitar signed by U2 frontman Bono.

Tony Blair autographs continued to do a roaring trade on eBay yesterday despite Mrs Blair's efforts. Last night sellers were offering a variety of Blair-signed paraphernalia including signed photographs ranging in price from £149.99 to just £4.99.