Besotted: Cherie stares adoringly into his eyes
Daily Mail | Sep 7, 2007
By PAUL SCOTT
Grappling singer Bono into a vice-like — and distinctly proprietorial — embrace in the South of France this week, Cherie Blair wore the rapt and adoring expression of a somewhat ageing bobby-soxer.
With a girlish giggle, and before the massed ranks of the paparazzi, she proceeded to plant two wet kisses on the stubbly cheeks of the U2 frontman.
It was an exuberant and excitable performance, given that this was hardly the unexpected reunion of two long-lost friends (the Irish singer spent much of last week in the company of the Blairs as they holidayed on the Riviera).
But as Cherie has come to realise of late, it pays to make the most of every good photo opportunity.
It is an approach that might be better suited to a minor reality television star or wannabe model, rather than a respected human rights barrister and wife of the former Prime Minister.
But as Mrs Blair adapts to life after No. 10, she has thrown herself wholeheartedly into launching what those in her entourage are christening “Brand Cherie”.
Rather than fade into the background, Mrs Blair has declared, privately, that not only does she fully intend to remain in the public eye, but is determined to exploit her “celebrity” credentials for all she’s worth.
Hence her high-profile appearance for the cameras without her husband at this week’s joint unveiling with Bono of a fountain dedicated to religious harmony.
All of which might seem odd given that barely ten weeks ago, when the Blairs finally quit Downing Street, her parting shot to the media she so vehemently despises, was:
“Goodbye, I don’t think we’ll miss you.”
What, then, has changed?
In a word, money.
With the untold wealth she’d been predicting was coming their way once Tony resigned as PM still seemingly as elusive as ever, she has been forced reluctantly to resume her role of chief breadwinner.
For she is said by friends to be ” tearing her hair out” over her husband’s decision to resurrect his battered reputation by attempting to negotiate peace in the Middle East rather than make the millions she craves.
So, free from the shackles of office, Cherie has instructed her advisers she wants to cash in on the lucrative international lecture circuit with a vengeance.
And all too aware that she is no longer unofficial “First Lady” of Britain, her kudos here and — more importantly — in the U.S. will be done no harm by her being photographed with the saintly Bono.
As if to underline her conversion from political wife to full-blown celebrity, she is reported to be hoping to persuade Tony that they should appear on a charity Christmas edition of ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The Blairs with Bono, holidaying on the Riviera
And in an astonishing break with protocol, sources within the Cherie camp tell me her go-getting American manager, Martha Greene, has not ruled out Mrs Blair appearing in adverts to endorse products in the States.
Cherie has already begun topping up the Blair family coffers.
She broke off from a family holiday at Sir Cliff Richard’s Barbados villa last month to fly to the U.S. to give three speeches.
The previous month she is said to have earned as much as £90,000 from another three lectures in San Jose, Denver and Toronto.
With close to £5million of mortgages on their properties to repay, Cherie is wasting no time.
She has also laid plans for their first official photo-shoot since leaving No. 10 — to take place at the family’s new home in London’s Connaught Square next week.
The photographs, she has told friends, will be a promotional tool.
Hardly surprising, then, that she is bemoaning Tony’s “lackadaisical” approach to making the most of the £40million it is estimated he can earn now he is out of office.
Cherie has been told by executives at New York’s Harry Walker Agency, which handles her speaking engagements, that her husband can easily earn $125,000 (about £62,000) a lecture in the U.S.
Although he has shown little inclination to cash in, after much cajoling from Cherie, he has agreed to enlist the help of Washington lawyer Robert Barnett to negotiate a lucrative deal for his memoirs.
Barnett brokered the £8 million advance for former President Bill Clinton’s autobiography My Life.
But confidantes of the former PM say a book is “many years away”.
Blair is also said to have promised Gordon Brown he will not publish while his successor is in office.
This week, Mr Blair arrived in Jerusalem on his first major visit as unpaid peace envoy to the quartet of America, the UN, Russia and the European Union — his decision to accept the mission a cause of “considerable friction” between Tony and Cherie.
While friends say Tony barely gives a thought to finance, Mrs Blair is painfully aware that his PM’s pension of £117,500-a-year (he also receives £90,000 for secretarial staff) will not cover the combined £20,000-a-month mortgages on their £3.5million house in London and two flats in Bristol.
One friend who saw Cherie shortly after Blair left office, said: “She kept going on about how she had been working her guts out for ten years.
“She actually said: ‘There’s no way Tony’s going to be allowed to sit round on his butt.’
“I have to say it was all rather odd seeing that whatever you think of him, the guy had been running the country during those ten years.”
Another said: “She is always complaining about Tony not being concerned where the money comes from.
Cherie is frustrated and resentful about it.”
As he sets himself to work on the task of brokering an unlikely peace in the Middle East, Mr Blair has already suffered a setback.
Unable so far even to agree who should sit at the talks, he has failed in his attempt to take up residence at Government House, the British colonial building with panoramic views over Jerusalem’s Old City, and has had to make do with rooms in the city’s American Colony Hotel.
And as for his plans for setting up his own charitable Blair Foundation, the organisation aimed at promoting inter-faith dialogue and combating poverty in Africa still has no HQ.
Also, the domain name, blairfoundation.org, which was registered by Miss Greene on his behalf, remains unused.
And embarrassingly for the former premier, web surfers visiting blair-foundation.co.uk are led to a site which features the face of Mr Blair and a bottle of ladies’ face foundation cream alongside the words “papering over the cracks in Tony Blair’s government since 1997”.
It adds: “Worried about the size of your debts?
“Fallen out with your interfering neighbour?
“Police on your back?
Explore our website and find out how Blair Foundation can help you.”
In fact, tough-talking New Yorker Miss Greene — who had been confidently predicting that she would be given the task of managing his lucrative career post Downing Street — has been unceremoniously dropped by Mr Blair.
In what has been described as a “night of the long knives”, Miss Greene was informed by another Blair aide, Jo Gibbons, that she was no longer wanted, although she will continue to work for Mrs Blair.
Unsurprisingly, former restaurateur Miss Greene, who usurped Carole Caplin as Cherie’s closest confidante, is said to be furious over the snub and Tony’s failure to break the bad news to her personally.
As her husband searches for a base, Cherie has taken over the front part of the Connaught Square home for her private office.
But three years after they bought the house, the builders are still hard at work renovating the property.
Indeed, before the family jetted off to Barbados to stay at Sir Cliff’s, the Blair children were billeted out by their mother because their own home remains largely uninhabitable.
Eldest son Euan, 23, was sent to stay with the parents of his girlfriend, while Nicky, 21, stayed with friends, and Kathryn, 19, was sent on holiday to Sicily.
Even seven-year-old Leo and the family’s nanny were despatched to stay with the parents of one of his school friends.
Friends of the couple say that when Cherie confided their predicament to new best friend Bono, who was given an honorary knighthood earlier this year, he immediately offered them the use of his stunning Riviera villa in the village of Eze.
They say Cherie was excitedly telling them of her plan to take the singer up on his offer.
But in the event, after the family had enjoyed a three-week sojourn in the Caribbean, they stayed instead on the yacht of their billionaire friend Bernard Arnault in the Med.
Then, after returning to London for the Diana Memorial Service last weekend, Cherie headed straight back to the Cote d’Azur for that photo-op with Bono, although her spokesman denied this week that she had stayed at his nearby home.
Her determination to maximise her own publicity was also the reason behind her decision to allow BBC cameras to follow her for the much-derided documentary, The Real Cherie, in which she was interviewed by a largely supine Fiona Bruce.
But friends say there was another motivation for her agreeing to the programme.
Strangely, given her determination to keep the lives of her children private, she also gave permission for Euan to be interviewed by the film crew.
In fact, both she and Tony are said to be keen for their eldest son to follow his father into politics and stand as an MP, and saw the documentary as a fitting launchpad for his future.
An ally of the Blairs said: “Cherie’s attitude to the media has always been one of utter loathing, but she knows she needs to keep a high profile if she is going to continue to be a draw on the public speaking circuit.
“She knows she can’t possibly earn enough money from her work at the Bar to keep them afloat and she is constantly being driven demented by Tony’s refusal to put his mind to earning the money she knows is out there.
“She says he never thinks about money at all. It has caused quite a few rows between them.”
In the meantime, as she faces a long wait for those millions to start rolling in, Cherie has reconciled herself to the fact that — for the foreseeable future — it is up to her to keep the tills of “Brand Cherie” ringing.