A Shark in the Goldfish Bowl; Last Week Cherie Blair Published the Goldfish Bowl, Her Book on Prime Ministers' Wives. It Has Been Trailed in Publicity Interviews as the 'Case for Her Defence'. Here, One Woman Who Knows What It Is to Have a Life Destroyed by Politics Examines Whether the Jury of Public Opinion Is Too Harsh
Byline: MARGARET COOK
By Margaret Cook EX-WIFE OF FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY ROBIN COOK
IT IS open season on Cherie Blair, and she has only herself to blame.
She has established a reputation for both stinginess and avarice, the latest example surrounding a speech she is giving in the US to a convention of insurance executives.
Previously, her US publicists have said Cherie would be speaking only on matters to do with 'her professional and legal expertise'.
Yet the convention organisers have admitted that one of the reasons they wanted her was because they were keen to hear about her life in 10 Downing Street. Perhaps this should not surprise-us, for Cherie has shown few qualms about exploiting her position as Prime Minister's wife, either in seizing rewarding commercial opportunities for speaking or in the choice of subject for her new book.
Earlier this month she published The Goldfish Bowl, a history of Downing Street spouses during the current Queen's reign, co-authored with Cate Haste (wife of Labour peer Melvyn Bragg).
Cherie is planning to award herself the royalties, though many people thought it would be more gracious of our First Lady to give her share, or part of it, to one of the charities she supports.
The very name The Goldfish Bowl is so Cherie. It vividly portrays her grossly distorted perception of her role and herself; surrounded by predatory fat media cats out to get her, a frail vulnerable scrap at their ungenerous mercy.
The fat cats are not outside the bowl, and she is not a frail and weak morsel.
Nor is her cocooned and protected world so glassily transparent.
Her obsessive protection of her own and her family's privacy speaks more of a parsimony born perhaps of insecurity than of any wish to avoid the limelight.
Being born into a theatrical family, as she was, may obscure one's true identity.
Who is she? A do-it-all committed career woman-cum-wife, mother and homemaker?
If so, why the slavishly adoring looks at her man, the fawning, the willingness to take second place, the self imposed silence, the obsession with hair, shopping and clothes?
She ought to be above all that. Indeed, this girliness kicked in only after she trailed after him into the spotlight.
THE disastrous appearance in tousled dishabille on the doorstep just after the 1997 election could have been turned to her advantage: OK, I'm ordinary, stuff the spin. Take me as I am.
That would have led her on to true emancipation, a detachment from the No10 machine in the manner that Denis Thatcher achieved so astonishingly well.
Instead she chose to have a crisis of confidence that tipped her towards the trophy wife.
At the ceremonies for the handover of Hong Kong shortly afterwards, the wife of the ambassador to Peking, Jane Cornish, received an urgent phone message: 'Drop everything (which included me) and find Mrs Blair a personal hairdresser.'
In just two months she had acquired the effete helplessness and dependence on services rendered that we associate with Royalty.
That was the first and only time I met Cherie. She was charming and friendly.
However, her main concern, which she voiced loudly and resentfully, was that there were far too many Tories present.
Cherie is a clever, extraordinary, multi-capable woman, many times more gifted than her mediocre husband, to whose fortunes she chose to hitch her wagon.
In this she is a mirror image of Hillary Clinton: both have preferred the prospect of vicarious male power, easier to attain than the honest grinding, largely unacknowledged slog of feminist attainment.
Few women have ever made it to a position of power without the interposition of a man - father or husband usually.
Indeed, Cherie accepts this, describing herself as the daughter and the wife of somebody, maybe in the future the mother of somebody. …