THE LAST WORD

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t looks like Cherie Blair will have to loosen her belt and tighten it all at the same time in the coming months because we hear that she is expecting a baby but also too poor to afford the sort of appropriate clothes a prime minister's wife is supposed to wear. She knows what sort of clothes she is supposed to wear because the newspapers never shut up about it, and she says she runs the risk of upsetting someone like Linda Lee- Potter if she is not seen out and about at various swanky knees-ups in something that costs at least seven hundred quid.

Well, can confidently predict that opinion on Mrs Blair's pregnancy will outweigh the comments on her clothes by several thousand volumes, because no-one's ever had a baby before, have they? Now, however, Cherie Blair has the challenge of looking stylish with a bump and not enough dosh. thought a prime minister's and a top lawyer's salary combined was a fair whack. Maybe she has to buy her clothes out of her own money, and expectant trips to the earhole of her husband have been unfruitful in the "Here's a pony, get yourself something nice for the whist drive at the Prescott's" department.

Still, suppose Mrs Blair is just going to have to prioritise. For a start, don't think that famous designers do clothes for pregnant women because it makes them feel queasy to imagine there might be even an ounce of extra flesh attached to their favourite combination of skin and bones. However, the times they are a changin' fashion-wise as far as pregnancy goes. No more are you expected to sit in the dark at home feeling like a leper; the precise instructions today seem to be "Get out and get that bump out, that's it darling, love the camera, love it".

Let's hope Mrs Blair isn't talked into one of those rather forced pictures of mother-to-be and bump grinning through gritted teeth like a cornered chimpanzee, in New Labour Weekly. t looks like Mrs B has the opportunity when compared to her predecessors to be the first pregnant fashion icon in Number Ten. Prime Ministers' wives of the past haven't exactly been visions of haute couture, but that doesn't matter really because they've always been a bit like the Queen in the sense that if Her Maj doesn't turn up wearing something hideous that looks like it's been knocked up in an evening by Auntie Doris with a bit of material left over from the curtains, we're all hugely disappointed. The monarch is meant to look like that and so are her children. t seems to me that this should also be required of politicians and their spouses. Mary Wilson, Norma Major. 'm afraid it was their role in life to frump it up with the best of the Royals and not be bothered about it.

must confess am looking forward to all the advice Cherie Blair will receive from the tabloid army of menopausal female commentators whose emotional steeliness would allow them all to moonlight as DSS snoopers. As far as fashion goes, their idea of a classy bit of schmutter is something that shows twelve hectares of cleavage, eight acres of thigh and is accompanied by make-up you could excavate. One can only speculate on their tips for a trouble-free pregnancy. Anyway, who cares what these old bags think? "Almost everyone, except you," can hear a voice in my head saying, and admit do seem to be the only member of the Sack of Spuds Fashion Awareness Co-operative this side of Prisoner Cell Block H.

t will be interesting to see what people make of an older woman in the public eye like Cherie Blair being pregnant, rather than the recent rash of Spice Girl/All Saints/Anyone A Nine-Year-Old Likes-type bands, whose emotional maturity dictated that their limited vocabulary was employed to say "yes" to any deal that involved a lot of money. Still, the kid's got to contribute to its upkeep, suppose.

feel depressed that Cherie Blair seems also to have headed off down showbiz road. t must be mighty reassuring for all the women on income support in this country to hear her moaning about not being able to afford designer clothes, not to mention single mothers - today's witches who would be ducked or barbecued if some of the more extreme members of the major parties had their way. f Carol Vorderman can manage at the high street stores - and let's be honest, she's a bit strapped for cash - 'm sure Mrs B can juggle the budget to put enough aside for the forthcoming event and manage to look attractive enough to prevent the no-brains of the fashion world throwing darts at her picture.

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