Tony Blair's enduring interest in people who were famous when he was young has been revealed in the first ever published list of people who have dined at the taxpayers' expense at his official country residence.
Show business personalities who have enjoyed the hospitality of the Prime Minister and his wife include Cathy McGowan, who fronted Ready Steady Go, a popular television music show in the Sixties, and her partner, the singer Michael Ball.
There was also Jim Capaldi, the drummer of the Sixties rock group Traffic, and his wife, Anna, the former That's Life presenter Esther Rantzen, and the singer and broadcaster Des O'Connor. The Blairs have also played host to the former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell. Guests from the world of sport include the former England footballer Trevor Brooking and the rowers James Cracknell and Sir Stephen Redgrave.
The list from the world of business includes the Tesco boss, Sir Terry Leahy, the theatre impresario Bill Kenwright, and Alain Dominique Perrin, whose luxury goods firm Richemont owns a large stake in British American Tobacco.
A handful of newspaper journalists and executives are also among the guests, notably Dominic Lawson, the editor of The Sunday Telegraph, and his wife, Rosa Monckton, the former Sun editor David Yelland, and the Guardian executive editor Albert Scardino, and Marjorie Scardino, head of the Pearson empire, which owns the Financial Times.
The Chequers guest list was one of the last government secrets to be extracted form the government before a change in the Freedom of Information Act came into effect yesterday, making disclosure obligatory except where the government department concerned can give a defensible reason for secrecy.
The list was passed to the Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Lamb, who first asked for it almost two years ago. Lamb appealed to the parliamentary ombudsman, Ann Abraham, to intervene in April 2003, after Blair had refused to answer a parliamentary question on whom he had received at Chequers.
She overruled stiff resistance from the civil service on the grounds that there is a "strong public interest" in knowing who is entertained at Chequers because the cost is met from public funds. The ruling did not cover those who have had meetings with the Prime Minister but have not been fed there.
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