Melanie Phillips

9 December 2002

The private illusions of Cherie Blair

Published in: Daily Mail

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Whatever else it may turn out to be, this is emphatically not a private affair. What started out as a question mark over Cherie Blair's choice of friends, and then became a rather bigger question over her property dealings, has now become a tide of sleaze lapping at the steps of one department of state after another.

Following last week's belated admission by Mrs Blair that she had indeed used the con-man and convicted fraudster Peter Foster to buy two properties in Bristol, friends sprang to her defence by insisting that these were merely the personal affairs of a private individual.

Mrs Blair herself seemed to believe that how she chose to invest her money was no business of anyone else. The uproar was simply evidence of a political vendetta being mounted against her.

Well, there can't be many private dealings in which so many government departments are involved. According to lawyers for Mr Foster, who was already facing deportation home to Australia, the Home Office suddenly tried to bundle him out of the country by the end of last week to curb the mounting embarrassment he was causing.

The Department of Trade and Industry is apparently investigating an allegation that Mr Foster has breached a ban on holding company directorships.

The Lord Chancellor's Department, which appoints the judiciary, now has to grapple with the apparent naivety and poor judgement of Ms Recorder Booth -- not to mention continuing questions about whether she has yet told the whole truth - when considering her supposed ambition to become a High Court judge.

And what kind of private individual deals with public questions about her affairs by using the Prime Minister's press office? Public and private cannot be separated so easily when your husband just happens to be the Prime Minister.

One of the most astonishing aspects of this whole affair is the way Tony Blair has been presented as hermetically sealed from his wife's activities. The impression has been created that she alone decided to buy the two Bristol flats, and that she alone stood to benefit. But that is not true.

Mr Blair stands to gain from these investment properties as much as his wife. The

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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