Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Cherie Blair, QC

'I wasn't at all the best-behaved girl'

Cherie Blair, 55, Queen's Counsel, part-time judge and co-founder of the radical Matrix Chambers. She is the wife of Tony Blair and daughter of the actor Tony Booth. Her autobiography, Speaking For Myself, is out now in paperback. Next Thursday she will present one of the Women of the Future awards at London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square.

I knew Mr Smerdon already; his son was the first boy who ever kissed me. With him as our teacher the last year at St Edmund's Catholic Primary, in Crosby at the northern end of Liverpool, was a magical time. We must have done all the subjects but I can't remember many formal lessons. He was a former fighter pilot and would devote hours to recounting his experiences.

I was very aware, from my mother and grandmother, that I should go to a good school – and Seafield Grammar was the good school for Catholic girls.

You really were separated from the rest of your primary school class who went to secondary modern; you became posh because you went to the grammar school. It was a good school with a lot of emphasis on developing morally.

My social life revolved round the Young Christian Students; the best chance a good Catholic girl had of meeting a good Catholic boy from St Mary's, the school that faced ours across Liverpool Road. We would discuss the [liberalising] Second Vatican Council. I developed the type of Catholicism I have today.

I was in the school plays and had the lead in Murder In The Cathedral. Two things that the school did in helping with my legal career were drama and public speaking, which gave me confidence in thinking on my feet. I was bad at sport but did the commentary for sports displays. Rather than reveal my two left feet in a gym display, I would announce: "Here is Mary with her forward roll." (I got a great kick later out of opening the sporting block and unveiling the plaque that said: "Cherie Blair, QC and distinguished old girl", though I wasn't so sure about the "old".)

I got As in history, geography and economics and I got prizes in those subjects. I wasn't by any means the best-behaved girl and they didn't give prizes for having the most late marks. Meriel Taaffe, the mother of my boyfriend, said: "You're good at debating and drama. Have you thought about becoming a lawyer?" The LSE offered me a place.

They found me a "suitable" place in Notting Hill run by Sacred Heart nuns with a 10 o'clock curfew and a dormitory with other girls. In my first act of advocacy, I managed to persuade the LSE to let me share a room in Passfield Hall and I lived in Central London for three years. Though I used to walk past Merchant Taylors' [independent school] on the way to Seafield, this was the first time I had come across public school people. I was always aware that some students had cars and went out to expensive restaurants.

At the LSE they taught law as a social science, with labour law and human rights law; they saw the subject in terms of its impact on political and economic life. This was the kind of work I saw myself doing and I got a first.

I did my bar finals at Lincoln's Inn, coming top. ("Blair, A." was nestling in the Third Class section.) We were one of the first years to experiment with practical training, visiting the different courts, but this was still an adjunct to the academic training. Only 16 per cent of women were called to the Bar. This was not deliberate prejudice, just the culture of the times; you didn't find many women accountants and doctors. Last year it was 50 per cent.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits