Magazine article The Spectator

The Lonely Hunter

Magazine article The Spectator

The Lonely Hunter

Article excerpt

FIRST there was Anji, who met Tony long ago at a posh Scots teenage party, when he fancied her friend and/or maybe Anji. Then there was Cherie, who married Tony and didn't like Anji because Anji had known Tony first, or whatever. But Tony knew that Anji was very efficient and charming and could talk to anyone, unlike most people in the Labour party, who weren't even speaking to each other. So Anji, having worked for him in opposition, moved into Downing Street, where she was gatekeeper, adviser, ambassador and `office wife', a phrase that set Cherie's teeth on edge.

Alastair, who was Tony's office husband - not that you'd say it quite like that to his face if you valued your dentures - didn't much like Anji on his patch either. He tried to give her an office on the first floor, which is a bit like being sat behind the filing cabinet and next to the waste-disposal unit in terms of No. 10's internal geography. Anji fought back and sat outside Tony's office, from where she sallied forth with a radiant smile and one of those half-rah, half-gravel voices that turn men to jelly and women to envy, to spread the gospel of Tony.

Meanwhile Fiona, petite blonde partner of Alastair but much more frightening, had joined the team looking after the government's prize asset. Yes, she was working for Cherie.

There was, as insiders admitted, `friction' between Cherie and Anji. One year, when Mr Blair was in his outer hotel room putting the finishing touches to his speech with Anji, Alastair and the gang, Mrs Blair emerged in her dressing gown and told Anji, in the sort of language that the little Blairs would be sorely upbraided for using, to go away out of her sight. A witness recalls that Anji stared straight ahead and did not move. Tony continued rewriting sub-clauses about the Third Way - which was very wise of him in the circumstances.

Labour's first term ebbed. Leo joined the cast. Anji did not share the nation's joy, worrying it would all be too much for Tony to cope with. Alastair ran Mr Blair's public image; Fiona ran Cherie's, rather successfully. Others made the decisions; sometimes Tony was one of them. Anji grew bored of being nice for a living. She made a play for Sally's job and a tactical alliance with Margaret, who was general secretary of the Labour party. Margaret goes off in a later episode to run Express newspapers, so we needn't worry too much about her.

But hang on, you haven't met Sally yet. Right, well Sally (kind face, primary headteacher's manner) was political secretary, which meant that she tried to save Mr Blair from being ambushed by his own party. Under her care, Tony would occasionally venture forth to National Executive meetings. She would then try to stop him leaving after ten minutes. Cherie sided with Sally in the turf war with Anji, murmuring that Sally was `on the side of the angels' whoever they may be in all of this.

But Tony could not face life without Anji, the only woman except Cherie who could make him change his shirt when he didn't want to. So when Anji threatened to leave he offered her Sally's job with a grander title. Sally was distraught. Even more so when Tony offered her the general secretaryship of the Labour party. If there is one thing a Blairite would not wish on their friends, it's that.

Sally said, `You must be kidding. …

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