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.

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London