Cherie Blair Should Be Seen and Not Heard

// 9 June 2005

So all this brouhaha about Cherie Blair is starting to annoy me.

Now I personally don\x92t really care whether she makes a bit of spare cash in the evenings doing after dinner speeches. Frankly, if someone offered me £30k for a fifteen minute talk I\x92d be biting their hand off. Of course they won\x92t. Because I\x92m not married to Tony Blair. And therein lies the problem.

Everyone has their knickers in a knot because Cherie only commands such a fee by virtue of being the PM\x92s wife (her personal career success notwithstanding), and people seem to be saying it\x92s either plain wrong or just a bit unseemly for her to be taking advantage of it.

Now of course this isn\x92t an issue which troubles women in all spheres of life \x96 in showbiz, for example, many an anonymous woman has courted fame and fortune by association with someone better known than themselves \x96 think Abi Titmuss (nurse to Page 3 girl via John Leslie). Indeed, such behaviour is not restricted to women. Fran Cosgrove, anyone?

Cherie argues it\x92s only an issue because she\x92s a woman. On balance I think this doesn\x92t hold much water. The comparison she drew of Dennis Thatcher doesn\x92t really apply because, to the best of my knowledge, Dennis only ever made speeches or appearances directly related to his own professional affairs.

But I do think it\x92s fair to say that, since 1997, the press have vilified Cherie to a degree I find quite perplexing. And I suspect it\x92s because we really aren\x92t that keen on our \x91first ladies\x92 having careers and opinions, earning far in excess of their husbands and generally having a head on their shoulders. I\x92m reminded of an incident early in Bill Clinton\x92s presidency when he appointed Hilary to oversee a healthcare reform committee. Hilary, as most now accept, is a shrewd politician in her own right but at the time the American press reacted with outrage (they can really only tolerate First Ladies running campaigns of the \x91Just Say No\x92 variety, not overseeing important welfare state reform), and Hilary was forced to stand down.

Of course Cherie\x92s made some foolish errors of judgement in her time, and been guilty of some shamefully poor media management but, by and large, she\x92s intelligent, extremely professionally successful and attractive (whilst unfortunately being wildly un-photogenic). She ought to lead the type of life that young girls in this country are taught to aspire to. Yet all our press seem to do is print a series of photos of her caught pulling a silly face, or with visible cellulite, and patronise her career achievements. No wonder our girls want to be glamour models instead.

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