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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Cherie urged to speak up
Cherie Blair with husband Tony and baby Leo
Mrs Blair is urged to speak out by her biographer
Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair - legal eagle Cherie Booth QC in her professional life - has been urged to step out from behind the Downing Street spin doctors and speak her mind.

The wives and husbands of British premiers have typically remained silent in public even when carrying out their own engagements.

This is the first time that women can rejoice because there's a woman in Downing Street as a wife whose also a top figure in her own field

Linda McDougall
In contrast, Hillary Clinton was prominent in her own right while her husband was US president. She is now the senator of New York.

More recently President George W Bush's wife Laura made a broadcast about the plight of women under the Taleban's now defunct regime in Afghanistan and the way they were forced to wear all-enveloping burkas.

Mrs Blair's biographer, Linda McDougall, pointed out during a debate on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, that the prime minister's wife was also involved in the same campaign but under very different circumstances.

While Mrs Bush was allowed to "make an important case Cherie Booth appears at Number 10 standing with one Labour minister on one side and another on the other".

The call for action came as Mrs Blair - or was it Ms Booth QC? - continued her recent run of engagements by opening a north of England curry factory on Friday.

Mrs McDougall said: "We are talking about Cherie Booth, top lawyer, top advocate here not some nervous inexperienced spouse - she'll be much better than Denis Thatcher or Norma Major...

'Not a politician'

"This is the first time that women can rejoice because there's a woman in Downing Street as a wife who is also a top figure in her own field.

"Just like the workers at Pataks I want to hear what she's got to say. I mean we all wanted to hear what she had to say about [baby son] Leo but too often - and I presume this is not her choice - she hides behind the spin doctors at Number 10."

But Labour MP Claire Ward told the same programme: "She's not there as a politician and the reality is that the media, once she starts answering questions about what she's doing on the day, will inevitably go on to ask her political questions which will relate to what the government does."

Political partners
Should they speak out?
See also:

01 Feb 02 | England
Pull of the poppadoms for Cherie
18 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair hints at life after Number 10
19 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair stays mum on Leo and MMR
21 May 00 | UK
Cherie's joy at baby Leo
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