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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 11:47 GMT
Foster's statement: Is this the end of Cherie-gate?
Convicted Australian conman Peter Foster has said Cherie Blair did not interfere in his fight to avoid deportation from Britain.
Foster claimed he has been the victim of 'character assassination' in the Cherie-gate affair.
He admitted that "at no time did she seek to interfere in the legal process, nor did I ask her to. Cherie simply passed on to me a professional view on where I stood on the case."
The businessman rejects claims that he was involved in a plot to target the Blairs. He says he became involved simply as the boyfriend of Carole Caplin, Mrs Blair's lifestyle advisor.
Both Foster and Downing Street now hope that these comments will put an end to the "Cherie-gate" affair.
Should Foster's comments put an end to the affair? Has Cherie Blair been unfairly criticised? Or should there be a public inquiry to resolve this issue?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The Cherie-gate thing IS probably over now, but possibly the majority of us will carry a picture in our mind of the famous "little break in the voice" speech by Cherie. It has an almost religious air about it. Could it be THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION?
I can't remember such a vitriolic campaign over nothing and it leads me to wonder what agenda some papers have. How do they became privy to private conversations? It's unbelievable this sort of power is in the hands of a few Fleet Street editors who consider themselves and their tatty rags above and beyond the law.
The only wrong that I can see she's done is wear that horrible pink eye shadow!! Someone please take it away from her now!
I keep seeing the word "conman". Am I to understand that it has proven he is still a conman? Did he not pay his debt to society for his past? Is this a title he will have for the rest of his life? 99% of people living today would accept a cheaper alternative from the "back of a lorry" and if you are looking for conmen look no further than our own government.
As someone with a continental upbringing, I am stunned by the capacity of the gutter press in the UK to waste time and paper discussing completely trivial and irrelevant events such as this one. If it were not for the tabloids, there would be no story. Just leave her alone. Concentrate on the policies of her husband, that's what matters to the nation.
It's the incessant stream of lies, from
both the Downing Street press
office and Cherie, that's annoying
What in Heaven's name are they so
worried about? That the truth may not
What are the ghastly facts that they
are so frightened will 'come out?'
Yes, she had ties with Foster, but how is that to say that she also tried to help him with his criminal record? Mr Blair has been found to have no ties with this case, and Mrs Blair would have gone through him if she actually would have tried to tamper with Foster's records. This is just another way to denounce Mr Blair. Everyone needs to step back and think because it doesn't seem logical to jump to conclusions.
I do not understand the commotion over Mrs Blair. She has no position other than being the prime minister¿s wife, no one has been disadvantaged or wronged by her - the Conservatives in the UK are starved of any method to attack Tony Blair and now try to attack him through his wife. If that is not disgusting, what is?
It is interesting how the left-leaning like to criticise the Daily Mail for daring to question the probity of the government and a member of the judiciary. When the Mail stands alone it is possible that such accusations are valid, but when the Mirror starts to ask the same questions people should take notice - after all the Mirror does not have a reputation as a right-wing newspaper.
Ultimately I don't understand where this is all leading to. If she was a politician, the press would demand that Cherie resigned. But as she isn't, and nothing illegal has happened, what is the point of all this? I can only imagine that certain parts of the media think that if that throw enough mud, some of it will rub off on her husband.
This has nothing to do with whether Tony Blair can do a good job running the country. I'm bored of tabloid papers following pathetic stories to try and sell papers. Print something worth reading please!
Surely the main point in the whole sorry affair of Cherie Blair is not that she is the prime minister's wife and a mother, it is that she is a member of the judiciary - a prominent barrister, part-time judge and would-be full member of the bench.
She is not a public official but is seeking to be one. She claims that she has the qualifications to sit in judgement on others. On paper that may be true, but by example it certainly is not. If she was a naive wife and mother her failings would be forgiven, but she is not. She says she should have asked more questions. I cannot believe a leading barrister, as everyone claims for her, can avoid asking more questions.
Compared to many other countries we have a pretty good system of government in this country which is pretty straight. However what we do have is one of the nastiest press organisations in the world, particularly papers like the Daily Mail. Some papers have gone past the good investigative journalism stage and now dabble every day in the gutter with vicious personal attacks on people in public life. I would like to know how and why the press get away with publishing peoples private letters/e-mails etc The press should be prosecuted for publishing private correspondence with editors imprisoned. Everyone is entitled to privacy in life no matter who they are. The Cherie Blair story is not of public interest.
Sue Kennedy, England
Well there's need and there's greed. They might need one apartment for their son at uni but two? I personally feel this is very insensitive at the present time - but then I'm just a poor student son of a single parent whose mother doesn't cry in public.
An independent inquiry would be a waste of money. Such an inquiry would be set up by the government on the basis of the Chair being selected from a list of Labour supporting cronies. Qualification requirements for the post being to have skills to effectively apply whitewash with a spinning brush.
Why are the press ignoring the one really worrying aspect of this story? Which paper was in cahoots with Peter Foster to set Cherie Booth up? As the news lobby shriek like het-up hairdressers because they are not being made privy to every little thing (and there is a major security issue for Euan Blair at stake here) the Tories look particularly stupid getting into the act - Convicted Con Men Close to the Seat of Power - oh dear how shocking - Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken - now that's what I call outrageous. Thank God for the Blairs or we would have people like that actually running the country.
Cherie has worked hard for her children and they deserve the best she can give them. That's all she was trying to do. Can't the British media move on with their lives?
Those who live by spin and manipulation of the press should not be surprised when it backfires on them.
Wow! So the boyfriend of the friend of the wife of a politician turns out to be a crook... It's time to get real, and ask why public transport is in a mess, or why universities are underfunded. Politicians should be attacked directly, and not through their spouses. After all, can any newspaper editor really be sure that his wife does not have a friend who has an unsuitable friend?
Mrs Blair is a barrister who is very knowledgeable in the art of the law. She, I feel, either is culpable in this situation or extremely stupid in her dealings and friendships with highly questionable people. Whether she likes it or not she represents a standard to which she and the government represent.
I am certainly not surprised by the Conservative Party's stance on this - unfortunately all they seem to do these days is comment on other people's shortcomings and not discuss any real policy issues or put forward any alternatives. And you wonder why people are losing interest in British politics?
Cherie has been very economical with the truth and I think the Daily Mail was right to pursue the issue doggedly. She has compromised her professional standing in a wish to help her friend out. I think it was wrong to accept Foster's offer to pay the 4,000 pound accountancy fees, she could have left herself open to blackmail. Is she the sort of woman who can be enticed into all sorts of dodgy dealings at the thought of a freebie?
The wife of the British prime minister is an articulate and highly intelligent woman. She is also a mother and wife who cares deeply about her family. The Blairs are human - leave them alone.
Is a blind trust truly blind if she can use it for property purchase? Why was the second flat purchased (she referred only to the flat bought for her son, and carefully made no mention of the second flat)? Sorry, but it IS important when a senior member of the judiciary who is close to the heart of government behaves in this manner. More answers please.
I feel that the main point of the story has been missed. The Blairs have decided that by buying flats for her son to live in, he is too good to live in halls of residence like the rest of the students. On top of that where the flats have been bought is one of the most expensive areas of Bristol, and nowhere near the student areas. Is it OK to subject all other students to the basic standards of halls, and student accommodation, but not their son! I think this is very odd coming from a Labour prime minister.
I don't care about what flats the Blairs buy - that's up to them. However, when No 10 makes an official statement that's plain wrong then it becomes a public issue. We shouldn't have an inquiry into the flat buying, but an inquiry into the number of times No 10 makes a statement only to have to change their mind after the media have exposed the truth.
A good barrister has to be a good actor. The drama school technique of almost breaking down but just holding it together was fantastically implemented. You can fool some of the people some of the time etc.
There are three types of people in life you should never trust - politicians, lawyers and journalists. They all do the same thing in life and that is lie professionally. Need I say any more about this story?
New Labour was elected on an anti-sleaze ticket. Tony Blair promised to be whiter than white but he obviously lied then as well.
Calum Steen, UK
As a family they have shown great integrity and good family values in the face of constant public scrutiny and media intrusion. If a mistake was made who are we to judge?
I think the most damaging thing about this affair is not what Cherie Blair did, but the fact that whilst trying to charge people for university education and denying the public sector pay rises when they cannot afford housing, the Blairs display an "I'm alright Jack" attitude by splashing out half a million on flats.
Cherie Blair's was a beautifully stage-managed and crafted performance to gain the sympathy vote. It answered nothing and leaves many questions as yet unanswered. It did not work.
Cherie should think herself lucky she can afford 250,000 pounds for a flat for Euan when many families face a real worry about whether they will be able to afford further education in future. I'll save the tea and empathy for them, thanks.
Would a simple sorry be enough to put an end to the affair if it had been the wife of a Tory prime minister? I don't think so!
Oh dear, once again the media is scavenging for news and thinking they have got a juicy bone to chew on. The fact is that people are now heartily sick of the subject and there are much more important issues to focus on. So come on and lay off this one!
D Thomas, UK
Who do you believe more - Cherie Blair or the Mail on Sunday? Cherie Blair every time. All this proves is how desperate the Mail is to find some dirt to discredit the Blairs or the Labour Party. As the current Conservative Party continue their journey into obscurity I think the Blairs should take some comfort from the shambolic bitter state of the opposition. One final point - why are the British so jealous and cynical towards anybody who makes a success of their lives?
This all seems rather cynical. First an attempt to hush-up the affair, and then using the media and a well-timed to elicit sympathy. This episode may be embarrassing, but nothing in it was illegal. However, as with all such events, the spin just gives the impression that the Blairs would rather attempt to manipulate public opinion at every turn rather than just be honest.
I cannot believe that I am the only person to have picked up on the similarity of Cherie Blair's emotional delivery with some of Princess Diana's speeches. The wide eyed tearful glances, the significant pauses. The general impression projected is of a mother innocently trying to do the right thing for her children. No, I'm not convinced at all.
I really don't think that anyone apart from politicians, bored journalists and Daily Mail readers give a monkeys about the whole business. The poor woman should never have had to make a statement.
Cherie Blair got a cheap flat for her son (which by the way helps to force house prices up and destroy local communities) due to her position, plus out of typical New Labour greed bought another one. No amount of crocodile tears or sanctimonious felling sorry for oneself can hide the sleaze and greed that is at the heart of this government.
Dr. BS McIntosh, UK
The long-term fallout from this event, long after any questions of allegedly improper behaviour by Mrs Blair or anyone else have been resolved, will be the abiding memory among Labour voters that their leaders are rich enough to buy two luxury flats while they still queue for hospital beds, their children struggle in overcrowded classes, and finding decent quality rented accommodation or securing chance to get on the property-owning bandwagon are equally unlikely outcomes.
To Steve in Australia - for goodness sake get real. Cherie is a barrister and her husband is a prime minister - of course they are going to be earning salaries in line with the high pressure jobs they keep. Would you have it that any future Labour leader must travel only on public transport and live close to the poverty line?
C. Thomas, USA
I found it somewhat ironic that she chose to whinge about the perils of being the PM's wife at an event she clearly wouldn't have been invited to if she wasn't the PM's wife. It was the clearest demonstration yet that Downing Street is quite happy to exploit the family image of the Blairs as and when it suits them.
If we stop asking why Cherie was involved a fraudster, and start asking why Cherie was involved with the father of a good friend's unborn child, then perhaps the situation becomes clearer.
Imagine if Cherie refused to help a pregnant friend whose partner was being deported, just because of the political implications? Putting careers before humanity is a charge often levelled at politicians. It is strange that certain newspapers have condemned Cherie so much for the reverse.
Has Cherie got an Equity card? If not, she should have!
No. I was not impressed. People in her position should know better. Even more so as a lawyer. It rather shows the calibre of today's people. Apologies are rather common and so are the tears and are becoming increasingly meaningless.
How could she not know he was a con? Are No 10's advisors out of touch with what the Blairs are doing? If I had a six figure sum to spend, I certainly would not trust someone I hardly knew with it! Her theatrical performance was worthy of an Oscar.
Elizabeth West, Oxford, UK
Yet again we have worked ourselves into a frenzy over nothing. Cherie Blair is an intelligent and hardworking woman with an admirable job. It is tiresome to hear people whingeing on about this unimportant story. No doubt these are the people who evade tax, but that's OK because they are 'the great British public'.
Tony and Cherie Blair enjoy the glare of publicity when it suits them -and demand the blanket of privacy when it does not. How hypocritical.
What this incident proves is that we have the most professional, tenacious and vigorous press in the world. That at least is something to be proud of - even if our government is a cringeworthy embarrassment.
This says more about the press than the Blairs. Instead of reporting the news they are trying to create it. There are far bigger issues than this in the world, get a grip!
I'd rather see the country run in a sensible way instead of everyone in the media and politics obeying the "concentrating on the issues of least importance" law that seems to govern the media and parliament in recent years. I expect a study in 20 years time will reveal a dip in the nation's average intelligence at the turn of this century.
Ken Elmes, UK
I was prepared to believe Mrs Blair until I saw her statement. It was not a statement, it was a performance. She would only do such a thing with intent.
I'm increasingly disillusioned with the British media - much more so than with British politics.
What Mrs Blair does is entirely up to her and her private life and that of her family should be left alone.
Helen Edgington, UK
This is most disappointing but not in the least surprising. It matters not what type of woman Cherie is, or what her beliefs and values are. It also matters very little what the precise details of the goings on between her and this convicted fraudster are. What matters is that the foremost figures of our government have again deceived us - we should not stand for it.
Phil Ruse, UK
All politicians lie all the time. It is a requirement of the job. They have to be devious and dishonest to survive. Some get found out more than others, that's all.
I entirely agree with David Fell's comment. Politicians simply cannot be trusted no matter who they represent.
Character assassination? That is a bit rich coming from a man who never misses an opportunity for some publicity. Yet when it is used against him he goes on about character assassination. Would it be 'character assassination' if it were a Tory MP's wife? I think not. Blair's attitude disgusts me and the sooner he is voted out the better for everyone.
Sarah Savill, England
I believe Mr Foster has paid his debts to society, is that not what prisons are for? I am astounded that the UK media feels that it is inappropriate for Mrs Blair to do business with Mr Foster. Are we saying that convicted criminals have no place in our society after serving their sentences? If that is the case, why bother letting them out. What happened to second chances? It is also worth pointing out that Mr Blair is prime minister not Mrs Blair, and as such is not accountable to anyone, least of all the British tabloids.
I am so fed up with the media focusing extensively on this subject. There are far more important things going on not only in this country, i.e. level of immigration, state of NHS, state of under-funding of education as a whole, lack of good public transport, the total waste of public money by the Crown Prosecution Service recently, not to mention the US railroading of the Iraq situation, and to keep on focusing on Cherie Blair who I believe on the whole is a good woman, has strong family beliefs, and supports her husband and family wholeheartedly. Can we please get back to the issues affecting the majority of the ordinary people in this country!
In my opinion this is a serious matter. The Blairs have chosen to act like the President and First Lady, putting Cherie in the spotlight, using her to appeal to women voters. If they chose to do this then she is open to the same scrutiny as any other politician. If she was a private person, then I would have no interest in her "financial" dealings, but she is not. I think this issue once again demonstrates the contempt in which the Government holds its employers
Andrew Reitemeyer, Germany
Surely there are laws that govern whether judges can accept favours from convicted criminals that lead to them making money? I have no doubt any other judge who made/saved £70k through business dealings with convicted criminals would no longer be allowed to sit in judgement of others. Cherie please don't make a mockery of the legal system, do the decent thing and resign, as you seem incapable of judging character.
Cherie should resign from the government immediately. No wait a minute - she isn't a member of the government. So this must be a non-story put about by the newspapers to try to get at her husband...
I cannot believe that the population of a developed country can go on moaning about something trivial like someone buying a property from their own hard-earned money! There are people out there dying, an impending war, why not concentrate on resolving these issues instead of feeling jealous of someone who is reaping the fruits of their hard work?
This is a further example of the "first family" acting in a presidential manner. If they want a private life then Mr Blair should resign and leave politics, but while he remains in politics his and his family's actions will remain in the public domain: it comes with the territory so stop bleating.
Peter Brown, Australia
What was the security service doing? Do they not keep an eye on the people the Blairs deal with and give them a warning when they may be about to deal with a dubious character? I also agree with what others have said about Cherie's right to be a judge.
It is interesting that Mark asks "What was the security service doing? Do they not keep an eye on the people the Blairs deal with". Well I'd hope not. Since when is it the security service's job to protect elected officials from their own stupidity in their personal lives? Is the taxpayer now supposed to pay to reinforce the electorate's perception of their character in the light of their stupidity too?
Truth and politics - surely that is a contradiction in terms. When has any politician answered any question truthfully except when he/she considers it in his/her best interest? Never mind the country or pursuit of the truth. Is it any wonder that the number of people voting continues to decrease?
As a Scots born nationalist I have to say that this is the only government I have ever had any faith in. I think as usual the newspapers are scandalous and a waste of our time, money and energy if all they are going to do is spew forth this rubbish. Tony Blair and his wife are hardworking modern people - don't they deserve to spend their hard-earned cash?
As an ex-pat I keep up with news from the UK and I truly believe that if you ask a question about whether an individual is trusted or not, the answer will depend on which political party the individual is linked to. Labour supporters in the main will support Cherie Blair and supporters of the opposition parties will probably not. So what is the value of the question in the first place?
I think most of the public are more likely to trust 10 Downing Street than the media. The government have to answer to the voters, the media do not.
I was shocked to hear that the premier family are building a property empire, especially at a time when there is widespread misery for many hard working people unable to afford a first home. The reason they gave was because their son was at Bristol University. Why did they buy two luxury flats then? They have discarded their principles and put their personal greed in place of the truth.
In a desperate bid to be heard from their obscurity, the Tories yell "Tricksters!" and everyone turns to have a close look at the Blairs! Of course they needed two flats in Bristol - they want to visit their son and will need high security, being the prime minister's family. This twisting of a perfectly natural action is cheap and abusive.
Tim, writing above, is shocked at the Blairs' greed. Get real Tim, they are both highly-qualified professional people who work extremely hard for their money and, like you, get to spend it on what they want.
Cherie Blair has used her own hard-earned money to buy two flats in Bristol. Presumably she paid the vendor the asking price. So, what's the problem and is it anybody else's business anyway?
Janet Turner: "Hard-earned cash"? She's a QC on more per hour than some people get in a week.
Has the opposition really run out of ideas on how to attack the government? Are they really suggesting that a barrister of the calibre of Mrs Blair would knowingly get into this mess? It sounds to me more like a failure of the spin doctors. Another good reason to get rid of Mr Campbell et al.
It seems a non story, even to those of us who find Cherie Blair rather irritating. This is a sign that Tony must be doing more right than we believe, if this is all that can be dragged up.
Regardless of the flat purchase the answer to the question is NO. I no longer believe anything that comes from any New Labour source. They have played with the truth so much that I don't think the nation can put any trust in the words of the prime minister or any of his ministers or his press office on any subject.
If Cherie is not breaking the law I fail to see that it was any of our business in the first place. What concerns me how the papers came to be reading private e-mails. Surely this is a question they should be answering?
Blair - government - truth - pardon?
Whatever the merits of the way these revelations have been handled the actions of Mrs Blair do not indicate a very good judge of character.
One must ask are these the correct traits one looks for in a prospective senior judge who will sit in the role of referee in the actions of others?
There is a saying in Nepal that even God make mistakes as long it is done in good faith. When I read all this I feel sorry for Cherie Blair who has been a fantastic wife to a busy and brilliant prime minister. Please give her some space. Yes I agree she should have been more careful with her friends but I think she has not cheated anyone. I think we can always trust Downing Street because everyone admires their transparency. I wish we had a prime minister and spouse like them in our country.
Isn't that like asking if you'd feel safe being smeared with honey and locked in a room fool of grizzly bears?
Prime ministers and politicians almost never tell the truth and act as if lying is expected of them - frequently showing off how cleverly they can dodge answering any question with a straight yes or no...
I cannot imagine a situation where there was no discussion between partners when a purchase of a property is being made. Therefore I suggest that the Blairs had spoken about the deal, the prices, who was handling what in the negotiations and so on. Both are intelligent enough to understand what they were doing and both must have realised they were on the edge of controversy, yet both are naive enough to think that they are above criticism.
Downing Street may like to continue to peddle the line that there was "a perfectly proper, legal transaction in which nothing extraordinary or illegal took place".
Maybe. But the real issue is the honesty and spin of this government, not the legality of the transaction undertook by Mrs Blair. The headlines sound better if they put out the "she has done nothing wrong" line rather than denying they misled people initially. The spin issue is getting more and more attached to this government as time goes on. They got caught out - plain and simple.
It's hardly Ms Blair's fault that the guy she was dealing with turned out to be a fraudster. I have more of a problem with the fact that the Blairs are undertaking in property speculation - which I see as a completely immoral business. Yet the tabloids seem to ignore this fact.
Well, firstly why was No 10 answering questions concerning private business transactions conducted by Cherie Blair?
Secondly, does anyone think that Cherie Blair is going to give up any of her friends, just because the tabloids say she should? From what we've seen of her, I get the feeling she'll continue to do what she wants.
There are times when I despair of this country's politicians (and their wives) who are seemingly incapable of telling the plain, simple and unvarnished truth. Why does everything have to be given a spin? All that will happen is that people will trust politicians less and less (if that were possible).
I think it brings her role as a barrister and judge into more question than it does anything to do with Number 10.
The amount of affordable housing being built under Labour has plummeted by a third since Blair promised a "decent house for everyone". So perhaps this is advice for people trying to get on the property ladder. Speak to a crook. I think not!
They are a family that has shown a high level of integrity. Don't forget that beyond being at No 10 they are a family with children whose futures they have to prepare and invest into. Making a saving on a buying deal is the hallmark of capitalism where demand and supply determines what the price will be and to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller. We have come a long way into capitalism to question it. Saving has benefited a family that is spending sleepless nights of real hard work to serve our country and the interests of all residents in the UK.
Anthony Howard answered your questions
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