Linda McDougall: It's no wonder furious Cherie is dragging her feet

The Blairs wanted to go out with cheering crowds lining the street. Being the PM's wife got her on to the well-paid US lecture circuit
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The Independent Online

Cherie Blair must be absolutely furious at the way things have turned out. She and Tony wanted to go out with cheering crowds lining the street. For 10 years, she has been barely civil to Gordon Brown in public and bitter and resentful of his leadership ambitions in private. Now he is grinning from ear to ear and asking when Sarah can pop in and measure up for some new nets in the family flat.

The Labour Party has also earned Cherie's wrath. She feels everyone must know that Tony rescued them and made them electable after he became leader in 1994. Now, only 15 months after his third election victory, the ungrateful party seems determined to ignore his achievements and commit political suicide.

But some of her anger must be reserved for Tony himself. At the end of the party conference two years ago, he announced that if he won the general election he would serve a full third term and then retire. She knew it was a mistake, and she's been proved right. Her husband will be badgered and battered and bullied relentlessly until he announces his retirement.

It's the manner of their going she finds so hard to take. Why can't the British be more like Americans and be grateful? When she visits America, people are always telling her what a great guy Tony is. Quite a few joke that he should lead the US for a while, and sort things out.

She has found her own role as wife of the Prime Minister more enjoyable than she ever dreamed it could be in the days of Alastair Campbell and his gagging orders. Being the PM's wife got her on to the American lecture circuit, where the fees are terrific. Cherie joined the New York-based Harry Walker lecture agency, whose clients include Bill Clinton and Bono. She has been promoted as a leading human rights lawyer, but that's not what pays the bills. There's the agreed subtext that she is the First Lady of Downing Street and will be revealing some secrets from behind the doors of No 10. If Tony is ever tempted to chuck it all in, my guess is that she'll be one of those saying "don't go a second before you have to".

Being the PM's wife is also a draw card in her legal career. Only last week she won a case in the High Court representing a British couple who'd bought land in Northern Cyprus and were sued by a Greek Cypriot who claimed it had belonged to him before the Turkish invasion. Mr Justice Jack instructed the loser to pay two-thirds of the winner's costs, including the part of the bill for £863,000 for the services of Cherie Booth QC and one of her juniors. Nice work if you can get it.

The Blairs will be leaving Downing Street with a £2.5m mortgage and two kids still at school. When Leo does his A-levels, both parents will be in their mid-60s. Cherie knows how important it is that both she and Tony capitalise on the Downing Street years and make maximum fees for their work over the next few years. It will take an awful lot of money to ease the bitterness she feels against those she thinks have let them down so badly.

Linda McDougall is Cherie Blair's unofficial biographer

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