4 OCTOBER 2001
She doesn’t often give interviews, but British prime minister’s wife Cherie Blair has spoken out on subjects ranging from her views on papal birth control policy to feminism and the stress of being a working mum which sometimes leads her to feel like “chucking it in”.
Responding to e-mail questions posed by readers of Britain’s Independent newspaper, Cherie empathised with a fellow working mother who described the inside of her head as a jumble of fish fingers, school worries, laundry, work schedules and neglected friends. “That sounds like a description of my handbag,” admitted the premier’s wife, adding: “I do sometimes feel like chucking it in, but never for long.”
Cherie also revealed that, despite being a practising Catholic, she was at odds with the Catholic church’s stance on birth control. In response to the question: “For the sake of the fight against world poverty, should the church change its teaching on birth control,” the premier’s wife answered with an unequivocal, “Yes”.
Saying her beliefs rested on “faith, hope and love” she added: “As a Catholic I am proud of the social mission of the church and its concerns for the poor and dispossessed, but I still personally would support women priests.”
While the power at Number 10 lies in her husband’s hands, Cherie confessed that the leadership post was one she once had her sights set on. “When I was 14 I told all the girls in my class that I wanted to be the first woman prime minister,” she said, joking ruefully: “Someone else beat me to that!”.
One reader wondered whether Cherie felt she “had it all”. “I don’t know anybody who thinks they have it all…I count myself extremely lucky to have a fantastic family and the career I always wanted” she replied. Another wanted to know if she called herself a feminist. “I have never been ashamed of calling myself a feminist and I believe passionately in women’s rights,” she replied.
While some questions focused on the homelier details of her life – what happened to the Humphrey, the Downing street cat to whom Cherie was allegedly allergic (he was apparently retired to the countryside) – others were more hard-hitting. “You seem to be a decent, caring, socialist from all your legal work. So how do you reconcile your personal views with the right-wing, market obsessed politics of your husband’s government?” asked one reader.
Mrs Blair’s response was to the point. “I don’t recognise the Labour government from that description,” she said. “It is not right-wing to introduce the Human Rights Act, to increase our aid budget, to cancel the Third World debt, to ban handguns, to introduce the national minimum wage…and to spend more money on our education and health service.”
The on-line interview was Mrs Blair’s most open foray into the public eye to date. Her adviser, Fiona Millar, explained that the premier’s wife had wanted to do something to publicise her new role as president of the children’s charity Barnardo’s.