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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 17:38 GMT
Political partners: Are they entitled to speak out?
Downing Street has insisted that despite Cherie Blair's rising public profile, she still refuses to give interviews.
The prime minister's wife has been invited to open what is believed to be the world's largest Indian food factory in Lancashire, but she will not speak publicly at the event.
Her decision to stay silent contrasts markedly to the public stance taken last November by Mrs Blair and US first lady Laura Bush, when the two leaders' wives launched an awareness campaign to highlight the plight of Afghan women under the Taleban.
But a number of previous high profile forays by leaders' spouses into the political arena have ended in embarrassment, most notably for now US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her healthcare reform crusade famously received less than lukewarm treatment and prompted a political u-turn by her husband.
Are political partners entitled to step into the political spotlight and speak out on important issues? If so, what role should they have? Or do you think they should stay in the background?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Women are much more sympathetic than men, so now they must use their powerful positions to help the Afghan women as best they can. We look forward to their continued support and help.
If they want to speak publicly about matters of state then maybe they should become MPs. Then they can be held accountable for their actions or inactions.
Mrs Blair only speaks on the appropriate subject at the appropriate time. She is more of a humanitarian than a politician. It shows she is not trigger-happy and eager to fire at the slightest moment. That is expected of a lady. Respect must be given to her. In fact, to be a wife of a statesman is not easy - she has to maintain her poise and dignity at all times.
It is a form of censorship not to let them speak out and if people confuse their views with the opinions of their political spouses then that is a problem for the public not for the spouse.
Spare us - one Blair is enough - but then he'd sell his granny to get a vote.
The audience decides for itself how much notice they will take - I would pay more attention to a political statement by Hillary Clinton than by Dennis Thatcher.
I think Cherie Booth's an intelligent and educated woman and I'm quite prepared to listen to what she has to say. It's got nothing to do with who she's married to. Hillary Clinton, the same. With Laura Bush, I'm less convinced, but that's no reason to say she shouldn't say anything.
Jenny Radcliffe, Durham, UK
It's not the done thing for partners of MPs to have a say in politics. Quite simply, because we vote for the MPs, not their relatives!
Wahid Ezaty, Australia
The two of them are complete hypocrites. They both protested about the way women's rights were being denied under the Taleban, but they were perfectly happy to ignore the plight of homosexuals, whose treatment was far worse - but that didn't fit in with their husbands' policies on human rights. Human rights are for everybody and if they can't see that they should just shut up.
Steve B, Scotland
Of course she should be allowed to give interviews, if she wishes to do so. As a QC, she already plays a high-powered public role. She should speak from this position - not as Blair's wife but as a high-powered legal professional in her own right.
I think they should be chained to the kitchen sink and be the homemaker for their illustrious world leader.
Cherie Blair should have the right to speak out on any issue as she clearly chooses. This argument has a lot more to do with the commercial desires of the media than any moral issue over freedom of speech or the public's right to know.
Di Stewart, US
I'm convinced that any opinion expressed by Mrs Blair will feed the paranoia of Labour's opponents. I remember the newspapers' onslaught on Glenys Kinnock as they attempted to undermine her husband. As long as Mrs Blair is not involving herself in the Parliamentary process then she should speak out whenever she feels it appropriate.
She is as entitled as anyone else to free speech, so long as we remember she speaks as Mrs C Blair QC and not as Mrs Prime Minister (unelected).
Mark Blackburn, Essex, UK
Are important global leaders' wives politicians? No. There's your answer.
I didn't vote for Cherie Blair and neither did anyone else. We should only have out elected representatives speak out.
They are supposed to take a back seat and that's how it should remain. It's not as though Mrs Blair is the prime minister, is it? I'm sure she is busy enough in her role as a barrister.
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