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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 20:56 GMT
Cherie Blair statement in full
This is the full text of Cherie Blair's statement about the furore surrounding her links to convicted fraudster Peter Foster.
In view of all the controversy around me at the moment, I hope you do not mind me using this event to say a few words.
You cannot have failed to notice that there's been a lot of allegations about me and I have not said anything.
But when I got back to Downing Street today and discovered that some of the press are effectively suggesting that I tried to influence a judge, I knew that the time had come for me to say something.
It is not fair to Tony, or the government, that the entire focus of political debate at the moment is about me.
I know I am in a very special position. I am the wife of the prime minister, I have an interesting job and a wonderful family, but I also know I am not superwoman.
The reality of my daily life is that I am juggling a lot of balls in the air - some of you must have experienced that.
Trying to be a good wife and mother, trying to be the prime ministerial consort at home and abroad and being a barrister, a charity worker.
And sometimes some of the balls get dropped. There just aren't enough hours in the day.
I choose my friends carefully and Carole Caplin has been a trusted friend and support to me as I have tried to adapt to the pressures of my public role and to do Tony and the public proud.
When I was just a barrister, I didn't spend much time worrying about how I looked, but I found out quickly when Tony became leader of the Labour Party that I had to get my act together and Carole has been a great help in that.
When she told me that she had a new boyfriend and she seemed happy with him and later was expecting his baby, it really didn't cross my mind that he was going to land me in the mess I am in now.
And anyway, I don't think it's my business to choose my friends' friends.
In any case, what Carole told me was that he had been in trouble in the past but was a reformed character.
Maybe I should have asked her more questions, but I didn't. She told me he had been in trouble for what he'd said were trading standards offences, but I had no idea he had been in jail in more than one country, including this country.
Even when I learned his name, I had no idea who he was. And I didn't know the full story until a couple of weeks ago when the police alerted us that a newspaper was trying to set me up in a meeting with him.
When I first decided to buy a flat for Euan, I asked Carole to view it for me because I was unable to do so at the time.
She took Peter Foster, who at that time I had not met, with her.
Afterwards he started to offer what seemed like helpful advice, which at the time I saw no reason to reject.
He was not my financial adviser, but I should not have allowed a situation to develop where Tony's spokesman said he played no part in the negotiations, and I take full responsibility for that.
Obviously, if I had known the full details of Mr Foster's past, I would not have allowed myself to get into this situation.
Even now, I have met him once for less than five minutes. In any event, the property was purchased in an entirely lawful and proper way.
And as for the blind trust, this consisted of money from the sale of our home in Islington, where we could no longer live after Tony became prime minister.
It was initially invested on our behalf in stocks and shares about which we had no knowledge - and it was our only remaining capital with which to buy another property for our family.
When we bought the flats, we were advised that the trust would be the safest way of keeping the Blair family name off the land registry for security reasons.
On the question of the phone call I made, which is now the subject of attention today, I can explain the background to that.
Carole was unclear about the legal process concerning his right to remain in the country.
I phoned Mr Foster's solicitor simply to put her mind at rest that the normal processes were being followed.
I emphatically did not try to influence this one way or the other. I was simply trying to help my friend Carole find out the facts.
Now it is being suggested that beyond this, I spoke twice to Mr Foster himself. I did not.
Tonight it is even being suggested that because I publicly checked the available court list for the name of the judge, in some way I acted improperly. I did not.
But this underlines to me just how frenzied and inaccurate these allegations have become.
I have also been faced with allegations that I, or people in Downing Street on my behalf, telephoned the Home Office immigration department to take up Mr Foster's case.
Or depending on which allegation you listen to, to kick Mr Foster out of the country. Neither set of allegation is true.
I now realise I made two mistakes. My immediate instinct when faced with the questions from the Mail on Sunday 10 days ago was to protect my family's privacy, and particularly my son in his first term at university, living away from home.
This instinct, which I think any mother would have, and my desire not to open myself up to any and every question which the press should choose to ask me is what led to the misunderstanding in the press office and I think they know that I did not act in any way to mislead them.
The second mistake I made was to allow someone I barely knew, and indeed had not then met, to get involved in my family's affairs.
I have never wished to make a public statement like this.
Throughout all of this, I have only ever wanted to protect my family and to help my friend Carole.
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 any way at all.
Sometimes I feel I'd like to crawl away and hide but I will not and I have come here tonight to present you with your well-deserved awards and that's what I am going to do.
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