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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 21:47 GMT
Cherie says 'sorry' for Foster dealings
Cherie Blair
Mrs Blair was tearful when she talked about her son
A tearful Cherie Blair has apologised for the embarrassment she caused in buying flats with the help of convicted fraudster Peter Foster.

In a dramatic 10-minute statement, the prime minister's wife said she was "sorry" and admitted she had made mistakes in the controversial property deal which has dominated the news for days.

Sometimes I feel I'd like to crawl away and hide, but I will not

Cherie Blair

She had not known that Mr Foster had ever been to prison and would never want to do anything to harm her husband, the prime minister, her children or the Labour government, she said.

In an unprecedented public explanation of her dealings with Mr Foster, Mrs Blair said that had she known the full details of his past, she would not have allowed herself to get into this situation.

She never thought that Mr Foster, boyfriend of her friend Carole Caplin, would "land me in this mess", she said.

'Helping a friend'

Acknowledging that she had a "special position" as the wife of the prime minister, with an interesting job and wonderful family, she said: "I also know I'm not superwoman".

Her speech provoked loud applause from her audience at the Partners in Excellence award scheme event at the Atrium Restaurant in Westminster on Tuesday evening.

Mrs Blair, who wept during her statement, was speaking 24 hours after it emerged that she had phoned Mr Foster's solicitors to reassure his girlfriend Carole Caplin there was nothing untoward about the immigration proceedings.

She said she had been "simply trying to help my friend Carole" and "emphatically did not try to influence" the situation.

Peter Foster
Mrs Blair took part in a conference call about Foster's case
Earlier the government accused some reporters of a "deliberate campaign of character assassination".

That attack - clearly aimed at the Mail group of newspapers although no names were mentioned - came as Downing Street also appealed for the media generally to get a "sense of perspective" over Mrs Blair's dealings with Peter Foster.

Trusted friend

The Conservatives are demanding an inquiry into whether the Home Office was urged to speed up Peter Foster's deportation case once his links to Mrs Blair attracted media attention last week.

Mrs Blair, who is also a barrister and charity worker, said: "The reality of my daily life is that I'm juggling a lot of balls in the air... trying to be a good wife and mother, trying to be the prime ministerial consort at home and abroad...

"Some of the balls get dropped - there just aren't enough hours in the day," she said.

I had no idea he had been in jail in more than one country, including this country

Cherie Blair
Ms Caplin, who is expecting Mr Foster's baby, had been a "trusted friend and support" to her as she had tried to adapt to "the pressures of my public role and to do Tony and the country proud".

While she chose her friends carefully, "I did not think it was my business to choose my friends' friends".


When Ms Caplin told her Mr Foster had been in trouble in the past and was a reformed character, Mrs Blair said: "Maybe I should have asked more questions, but I didn't".

"I had no idea he had been in jail in more than one country, including this country," she said.

She only knew who Mr Foster was when the police said a newspaper was trying to set up a meeting with him.

Oliver Letwin, shadow home secretary
Oliver Letwin is suspicious about the deportation timings
After he accompanied Ms Caplin to see a flat in Bristol for her son Euan, "he started to offer me what seemed like helpful advice which at the time I had no reason to reject".

Mrs Blair said Mr Foster was "not my financial advisor" and she had only met him once for less than five minutes.

But she stressed: "I should not have allowed a situation to develop where Tony's spokesman then said he played no part in the negotiations and I take full responsibility for that."

The property was "purchased in an entirely lawful and proper way", she said.

Money from the Blairs' home in Islington had been invested in a blind trust to keep the family name off the land registry for "security reasons".

Mrs Blair said she had been prompted to make a statement after she discovered that "some of the press are effectively suggesting that I had tried to influence a judge".

I am sorry if I have embarrassed anyone

Cherie Blair
She had not telephoned the Home Office to get Mr Foster "kicked out" of the country.

She had not acted "improperly" by checking the available court list for the name of the judge.

Mrs Blair was tearful as she said she had been mistaken in her instinct to protect her family's privacy and "particularly my son in his first term at university living away from home".

"My second mistake was to allow someone I barely knew and indeed had not yet met to get involved in my family's affairs," she said.

"I am sorry if I have embarrassed anyone, but the people who know me well know that I would never want to harm anyone, least of all Tony or the children or the Labour government or misuse my position in anyway at all."

Cherie Blair, Prime Ministers wife
"My immediate instinct was to protect my family's privacy"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Her story was a tale of human error"
Bridget Prentice, Labour MP
"It was a very human statement"
David Davis, conservative spokesman
"You couldn't help but feel for her"
Cherie speech: Were you convinced?



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See also:

10 Dec 02 | Politics
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