Fired tabloid editor pens his revenge on 'flirty, moody' Cherie Blair

Piers Morgan says he doesn't hate the PM's wife but, reports Andy McSmith, the former 'Daily Mirror' chief's diaries will shred her reputation

Sunday 27 February 2005 01:00

Cherie Blair is set to have her reputation shredded once again with the publication of "secret diaries" written by the bad boy of British newspapers, Piers Morgan, who accuses her of being insecure, moody and a flirt.

Cherie Blair is set to have her reputation shredded once again with the publication of "secret diaries" written by the bad boy of British newspapers, Piers Morgan, who accuses her of being insecure, moody and a flirt.

Serialisation of Mr Morgan's book in the Daily Mail coincides with another visit to the USA by the Prime Minister's wife, who has developed a well-paid sideline as an after-dinner speaker.

The "diaries" are said to be full of revelations about the famous and the powerful with whom Morgan rubbed shoulders during his career in journalism. He has promised to tell what Tony Blair "really" thinks of Alastair Campbell, and to give an account of how a paparazzo snatched a photograph of Cherie Blair sunbathing topless on a holiday beach.

He freely admits that Mrs Blair heartily disliked him, and likens to her to the late Princess Diana.

"I don't hate Cherie. She had an extremely difficult upbringing that left her pretty damaged. She's not dissimilar to Diana in that respect.

"The last time I saw her was at Peter Mandelson's leaving do, where she flirted with me. The chivalrous thing is to say that I wouldn't be her type."

Mr Morgan was sacked after nine years as editor of the Daily Mirror after his newspaper published photographs last year of British squaddies allegedly maltreating an Iraqi prisoner. The pictures were fakes. He now claims to have made more money out of that than if he had stayed in the job for another five years. His advance for his diaries is reputed to have been £1.2m. He was also paid £1.7m compensation for losing his job.

The revelation that he kept a diary all those years has puzzled old colleagues who have been contacted by him recently, so that he could pick their memories. Others who know Morgan have pointed out that he is not a natural observer and recorder of events, because he was never a good listener. "He was a great talker, who loved attention," one said.

But the "diary" is destined to be a sensation, with famous names running through it like the writing through a stick of rock, because Morgan first made his name as a journalist on the Sun through an amazing ability to get his face into photographs of the famous.

The sections likely to make the loudest noise will be those that describe Morgan's encounters with leading figures in the Labour government. He was a former Tory who became a Blairite in the 1990s, and did a great deal to help finish the Tories. Having become editor of the News of the World at the age of 28, in 1993, he ran a series of Tory "sleaze" stories, which usually led to yet another member of John Major's government resigning.

At the Mirror, aged 30, Morgan was in constant touch with Tony and Cherie Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson and others. His diary records in a bemused tone Mrs Blair's unconcealed dislike for him. A fortnight after his dismissal, he was walking through Soho when the door of a people carrier opened to reveal a grinning Mrs Blair, who insisted that he must come to a Downing Street dinner to which he had been invited in his capacity as the Daily Mirror's editor. He reminded her that he had been sacked, and she exclaimed: "Yes, we're still celebrating!"

That could be explained by the way Morgan latterly changed the Daily Mirror's political line, and campaigned relentlessly against the Iraq war - but he attributes the problem to Mrs Blair's "insecure" personality. The Prime Minister's wife was brought up in single-parent household in Liverpool. She is more conscious than her husband of the fact that his Prime Minister's annual salary, which will rise in April to £183,932, is less than he could be earning as a barrister. The couple also lost out badly when they sold their Islington home in 1997 to move into Downing Street.

This week, Mrs Blair will give a speech at Samford University, for which she will get a fee that could come to £10,000. She will no doubt plug The Goldfish Bowl, her book about Prime Ministers' wives. She reputedly made more than £100,000 from five talks she delivered in Australia earlier this month.

At the first Labour Party annual conference after the 1997 victory, Tony Blair was - as usual - guest of honour at the lunch given by the Mirror management. The Mirror had reported that some cabinet ministers resented having their pay frozen as a political gesture.

The Prime Minister had been praising the Mirror's political coverage, when Morgan - then aged 32 - suddenly took out his wallet, removed a £20 note, threw it across the table to the Prime Minister, where it landed among the silver cutlery and quality bone china, and said: "Here, Tony, buy something for the kids, from the Mirror."

"It was one of those earth-stopping moments when you think, is this really happening?" one of the fellow guests recalled. The silence was broken by Alastair Campbell, who pocketed the crumpled note and announced that it would be donated to charity.

Morgan has complained repeatedly about Mrs Blair's attitude to him, saying that "it was unhelpful to the general relationship between the Mirror and Downing Street that the wife of the Labour Prime Minister had such a vengeful hatred for me." It is also arguable that his own flamboyant behaviour was "unhelpful" - but that observation may not have found its way into Morgan's diaries.

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