Cherie Blair given £2,000 of designer clothes in Australia

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Indy Politics

Cherie Blair may be one of Britain's most successful barristers, but she could not resist a free gift when she went on a shopping trip Down Under.

The Prime Minister's wife, who is in Australia for an international law conference, was reported to have walked away with 68 items of free designer clothing after she was invited to visit a fashionable Melbourne store. Mrs Blair left the Globe International store in Port Melbourne with clothes worth Aus$5,000 (£2,000), the Herald Sun, a Melbourne daily newspaper, reported.

Most of the clothes were said to be for her children Nicky, 17, Kathryn, 15, and Leo, two, who were with their mother on the visit.

The paper said the haul included jackets, sweaters, polo shirts, T-shirts, mini-skirts, jeans, shorts, belts and bags. Books, an alarm clock, a lunchbox, necklaces, a beach play-set, pillow cases, pyjamas, socks and boxer shorts were also listed.

"We didn't actively seek her to come down, which is what we have done with the likes of Robbie Williams," Globe's marketing manager, Anna Craig, told the paper. "It was more about an Australian company offering hospitality to the wife of the second most powerful man in the world. We did not single her out because we want her to wear the label. It was more a gesture to save her time and, though this may sound tacky, welcome her on behalf of Australia." Ms Craig would not say whether Mrs Blair paid. "I am not in a position to answer that. That would be confidential," she told the paper.

Globe International's labels, including Mooks and M-One-11, are popular with pop stars and young celebrities.

The Melbourne-based label has dressed Robbie Williams, Nelly Furtado, Fatboy Slim and members of the band Blue. But Ms Craig said that she "really doubted that Cherie or Tony Blair would wear our labels". She added: "I think she did grab a few items for herself. But she has a stylist, so I don't think she'll be wearing Mooks in public."

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on the newspaper reports from Australia. He said: "We are not saying anything. We do not speak for Mrs Blair."

The latest episode comes just months after the "Cheriegate" affair when Mrs Blair had to defend her links with an Australian conman, Peter Foster, after disclosures that he helped to negotiate her a discount on two flats in Bristol.

Mrs Blair stunned onlookers at the Labour Party conference last year by touring stands collecting bags full of free samples, mugs and pens for her children.

The Blairs have also been embroiled in more than one row over enjoying free holidays abroad. In 2001, the Egyptian government paid for the Blairs to fly from Cairo to a resort on the Red Sea where they stayed in two villas, at the Egyptian government's expense. A beach was closed and a two-mile exclusion zone set up around the bay to keep out boats and other divers.

In 1999, the Blairs donated a reported £3,000 to an Italian hospital after accepting the hospitality of the Tuscan regional government during their summer holiday.