Cherie: Britain's First Lady

That's the billing Cherie Blair is getting prior to yet another lucrative speaking tour of the States. And now she stands accused of cashing in before her husband leaves No 10
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Indy Politics

Cherie Blair was last night accused of cashing in on her husband's departure from No 10 with a final lucrative overseas lecture tour. The Prime Minister's wife has been marketed in the US and Canada as the "First Lady of Great Britain" for a list of engagements in June next year.

The tour, which coincides with what is expected to be Mr Blair's last full month in No 10, will net around £100,000 for the barrister and part-time judge. MPs last night condemned Cherie Blair for what they said amounted to a last-ditch attempt to trade on her husband's position.

Mrs Blair's latest money-spinning stint on the lecture circuit will see her deliver talks in Toronto, Vancouver, San Jose and Denver. Tickets cost $599 (£315) each. The engagements, booked though the Harry Walker agency, are being run by Unique Lives & Experiences, which describes itself as North America's Foremost Women's Lecture Series.

Previous speakers on the same lecture tour include Sarah Ferguson and Lady Thatcher. This year's series is offering Hollywood stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver. Speakers are paid between $25,000 (£13,000) and $125,000 a night. The firm has been billing Mrs Blair as "Cherie Booth, QC, First Lady of Great Britain".

But Chris Grayling, the Tory frontbencher who has pursued Mrs Blair over her business interests, said: "It is hugely disappointing to see that Mrs Blair is embarking on another round of commercial activities linked to her life in No 10 before Mr Blair steps down.

"However, the more serious issue is about [Mr Blair's] own conduct. The ministerial code ... is clear that ministers are personally responsible for ensuring that there is no conflict of interest, or even a perception of a conflict, between their jobs and the financial interests of their family. [He] seems to have conveniently forgotten that he said that he expects all ministers to work within the letter and spirit of the code."

Mrs Blair's speaking agency said the promotional literature had not been cleared by her and had asked for the wording to be changed, after which Unique Lives & Exper- iences removed all references to No 10 or Mr Blair's duties from the site. A spokeswoman for No 10 refused to comment.

* The Government is refusing to say whether it has launched an investigation into the business activities of David Mills, the estranged husband of Tessa Jowell. It emerged in March that Ms Jowell had been told to absent herself from cabinet discussions about Iran because of her husband's attempts to broker an aviation deal with Tehran.

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