Cherie: Sometimes I feel I might fall off the tightrope

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The Independent Online

Cherie Booth spoke candidly yesterday about the difficult balancing act of being a working mother as she attacked the "macho" culture of long hours in the legal profession.

Cherie Booth spoke candidly yesterday about the difficult balancing act of being a working mother as she attacked the "macho" culture of long hours in the legal profession.

Ms Booth, a QC and part-time judge, said she found it hard to "cope with an eight-week-old baby and three teenagers". She said it was a difficult line to walk and that, at times, she felt that she "might fall off the tightrope". The Prime Minister's wife went on to argue there was a "glass ceiling" at many City law firms that prevented women from taking up senior positions.

And she in effect blamed her former mentor - now Lord Chancellor - Lord Irvine of Lairg for not doing enough to redress the imbalance of too few women and ethnic minority lawyers being represented among the judiciary.

Ms Booth said that if she had known what challenges lay ahead of her, "I wonder if I would have been foolhardy enough to start out on a career at the Bar". Her comments, the first time she has spoken publicly since her eldest son, Euan, was cautioned for being drunk and incapable, were in a speech to the American Bar Association conference in London.

Ms Booth called on the Government to change the criteria for the appointment of judges. She said: "There must be some reason ... something's going wrong with the criteria because it's not throwing up members of ethnic minorities."

Ms Booth said it was important that society should not assume that a "real lawyer" had to be middle-class, white and male. Positive discrimination, said Ms Booth, was illegal under European law but she added: "We should not be put off by taunts of positive discrimination."