Cherie on the top

2008-08-27 00:00

ONE starts Cherie Blair’s autobiography, Speaking for Myself, with a lot of baggage. Not only are there all the scornful media responses to it in Britain; there are also one’s own memories of her accident-prone tenure as the United Kingdom’s first lady. What’s more, I am not the world’s greatest fan of New Labour.

So I gleefully anticipated lofty contempt for Mrs Blair. Rather to my surprise, instead I ended up rather fond of her.

Cherie Blair is no fool. In fact, she managed to drag herself up from humble beginnings to become one of England’s most distinguished lawyers.

But she has one glaring flaw and/or virtue. She takes pride in her own gaucheness. Dignity? She has no idea what the word means. This drove her husband Tony nuts when he was prime minister, as she happily admits.

But her let-it-all-hang-out style makes for an entertaining memoir, especially seeing that she has a good sense of humour to boot.

First one has to plough through hundreds of pages about her early years — but at last we get to the juicy bit, her tenure as 10 Downing Street’s chatelaine.

And, boy, once she at last gets around to it, does Cherie hand in the goods. Alastair Campbell? Gordon Brown? One clearly would hardly dare mention those benighted names in her presence. Royalty? Juicy insights abound — although when it comes to Queen Elizabeth herself, well, she has succumbed to the regal charm without a blush, New Labour or not, just as everyone seems to.

She is at her most fascinating about the week following Princess Diana’s death. Her revisionist critique of the Helen Mirren Oscar-winner The Queen is most definitely worth a read.

Blair’s prose is not deathless — but it does keep one rollicking along reasonably well. One might wonder why someone who is forever bleating about media intrusion might not have chosen a stately silence over this money-grabbing autobiography. But that’s her business and, seeing she’s written it, it’s definitely worth a whirl.

Robin Crouch

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