Cherie denies Blair 'wobbled' and had thoughts of resigning

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Indy Politics

Cherie Blair yesterday dismissed suggestions that her husband had considered resigning as Prime Minister because of the family pressures he was facing.

She ridiculed this week's claim by Lord Bragg, a close friend of the couple, that Tony Blair had contemplated stepping down earlier this year because of "family considera- tions". His comments provoked a fresh round of speculation about Mr Blair's future intentions. They were seen as having extra weight because the peer's wife, Cate Haste, has written a book with Mrs Blair about prime ministers' spouses.

However, giving her first television interview, Mrs Blair denied he had been authorised to make the comments. "As Tony ... said, there never was a moment when he was going to resign. I can assure you if he had done, I would have known.

"So I do not know where Melvyn got it from and to be honest I think he is mortified that he said it," she told Channel 4's Richard and Judy.

Dismissing the notion that Lord Bragg's remarks had broken their friendship, Mrs Blair said: "I am not the sort of person that goes off and takes a huff, frankly."

Ms Haste, in a separate Radio 4 interview, echoed her comments, saying she did not think her husband knew what he was talking about.

On Tuesday, Lord Bragg told the ITV News Channel: "I think he was under tremendous stress. He was being hammered in the press.

"And my guess is that the considerations of his family became very pressing and that was what made him think things over very carefully."

Lord Bragg emphasised the problem was not marital, adding: "The real stress was personal and family, which matters to him most."

His incendiary comments came two months after intense speculation that the Prime Minister had suffered a so-called "wobble" because of the political pressures he was facing. There were reports that loyalist cabinet ministers had pleaded with him not to resign.

Mrs Blair was interviewed on the Channel 4 show to promote her book, The Goldfish Bowl, in which she and Ms Haste interview the partners of former prime ministers.

She said all had thought that the press were a "difficulty". Asked if she felt she had "had it worse" than the others, she replied: "The truth is today we have far more press, we have far more television, we live in a different world."

Questioned on why there appeared to be more "vitriol" directed at women in No 10 than men, Mrs Blair said she thought people still found it difficult to accept women in public life.

Asked how she dealt with personal criticism, she replied: "The only way to deal with it is to ignore it because otherwise ... you would go mad."

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