Sarah Sands: Cherie swoons again, but who can blame her?

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The Independent Online

The response to Cherie Blair's unprompted declaration that her husband "still excites me in every possible way" has ranged from sceptical to squeamish. What is wrong with her? She has terrible form in this area. Who can forget her panting memories about "fancying" Tony "rotten" on first sight and going straight from the 74 bus to bed. Or the "contraceptive equipment" she lustfully abandoned before going to Balmoral. Some commentators have accused her of protesting too much. I doubt it. If you have read Tony Blair's autobiography, The Joy of Sex, I mean The Journey, you will know that the strangest things set him off. As he decides to run for the Labour leadership, Blair is "cradled" in his wife's arms. "I was an animal following my instinct." Let us remember that our tiger has been roused in the wake of John Smith's death. What on earth was he like after Princess Diana?

The convention has been to compare the weirdly wanton Cherie with her modest successor Sarah Brown. But since the Stepford diaries, there has been some historical revisionism.

I suggested to a former Labour minister that Sarah's baffling conversion to the burqa could be attributed to her relative youth and infatuation. He snorted that it was Sarah's calculation and a strategy before she had even met Gordon Brown. He was a professional project as well as a life partner.

By contrast, Cherie and Tony were always flesh and blood. We all settle into exaggerated versions of ourselves. Blair has become vainer and more intangible; in a post-Downing Street interview with Cherie, her husband appears "wearing running shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt" and complains that he never knows what is going on in his own house. As for Cherie – well, we know what she wants. Mobile phones for women in Africa.

The seeming purpose of the Sarah Brown diaries was to boost her husband's image, but instead, her Natascha Kampusch dignity made one fearful of her long-term mental health.

No one could worry about Cherie. And as a result, we start to see her husband through her eyes. A colleague of mine, one of the many disillusioned Blairites, has suddenly started sighing over his attractiveness.

There is an association between personal and political virility. Put crudely, both Blair and Cameron are good at getting their wives knocked up. Coincidentally, they are both liberal interventionists. Who could not be persuaded by a man of action?

Cherie Blair wrote, of the failed contraception night, that "Tony's really strong body was warm" and "what with one thing and another" Leo was conceived. What was this but a version of Tony Blair's Chicago speech, in which he turned his back on cowardly caution and chose hard power. You mistake me if you think I am jeering at machismo politics. I believe in moral courage, most notably shown by Margaret Thatcher. When Cherie Blair says of her husband "I think he'll be up there with Churchill", I believe her.

Libya has been a mess for Tony Blair but his morally ambiguous position has not been intellectually incoherent. He brought his combination of faith and stamina to the axis of the world. You convert where you can, and you stand your ground where you cannot. It was Osama bin Laden's saying that "when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse". Yes, Cherie might guffaw. She backs the strong horse.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'