Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The charming Cherie Blair

Louise Bagshawe at CentreRight pays this most unexpected compliment.

I had the honour, and yes I do mean honour, of interviewing Cherie Blair. As a tribal Tory, like the rest of us, I've read the caricatures published about this woman over the years. She was the PM's wife our press loved to loathe. Grasping, bolshie, chippy, you name it. There was none of that anywhere in the person I met.

What I'm about to say will not surprise anybody who has read her book. Mrs. Blair is a naturally good writer, so much so that I think in becoming a lawyer she may have missed her true calling. Speaking for Myself is a cracking good read. The author is self-deprecating, witty, perspective, laugh out loud funny at times. You must get it if you haven't done yet. No wonder why it was a massive bestseller when so many bland, sanitised political memoirs fail.

I interviewed her at Southwark Crown Court where she is still working as a Recorder. Not the height of glamour, and obviously Mrs. Blair has no need to work. She does it from a sense of duty and self-satisfaction. When I said I thought it was great she was still working she looked puzzled that I'd even imagine she would stop. She was kind, she was polite, she asked about the date of the election, she said we needed more women in parliament, asked me about standing in Corby. We discussed the hell of the PPC selection process, something she went through herself as well as watching her husband suffer through it.

I was there to interview her, but she's one of those rare people who seems more interested in others than herself. She was elegant, she smiles and laughs all the time. She is (red rag to a bull on ConHome, this, but I admire it) a true feminist. She said she sees her book not as political but written for other women. Men will love it too.

You can see the interview during the show, but in passing in one of her answers, Mrs. Blair said of the press that she didn't even recognise the woman they described. Nor do I. I don't think I've ever been more struck by the disparity between somebody's manufactured image and the person they turned out to be. In the future, I will put even less stock in the tabloids' portrayal of anybody's character. As Conservatives, we can be thankful that such a bright and charismatic woman never made it into Parliament.

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