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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 12:20 GMT
Blair's 'pride' for Cherie
Tony Blair has spoken of his pride for his wife after her unprecedented apology for the embarrassment she caused by buying flats with the help of a convicted fraudster.

The prime minister on Wednesday described the furore over his wife's links with Peter Foster as a "horrible time".


Some of the things that have been written bear absolutely no resemblance to the person who is my wife

Tony Blair
And he criticised part of the media for their coverage of the affair, saying much of what had been reported bore "no resemblance to the person who is my wife".

In a tearful, public statement on Tuesday Mrs Blair said she was "sorry", but insisted she had done nothing wrong, eliciting sympathy from many quarters.

The Conservatives, however, continued to call for an inquiry into government's role in the affair.

Visiting a centre for victims of domestic violence in London, Mr Blair instead said it was time to move on to the more important issues facing the government.

He said: "It has been a horrible time for Cherie and I am very proud of what she did yesterday.

"It was very difficult for her to do that. It took a lot of courage to do that.

"All I hope is that the public understands when one of these situations happens, there are parts of the media - and it is only parts - who take these grains of truth and on top of that a whole mountain of distortion and half truth is built."

Peter Foster
Peter Foster is appealing against deportation
Mr Blair saluted his wife's "integrity and decency", saying: "Some of the things that have been written bear absolutely no resemblance to the person who is my wife".

Asked if he thought there were still unanswered questions, Mr Blair said every time answers were given a new range of questions emerged.

"I'm also trying to do my job because there are issues frankly which are a lot more important than issues that have dominated the news in the past few days," he said.


Everybody makes mistakes

Dr BS McIntosh, UK

Several newspapers were on Wednesday questioning why Mrs Blair publicly checked the name of the judge presiding over Mr Foster's deportation case - a detail which emerged only on Tuesday afternoon.

Mrs Blair gave no reason for doing so but denied acting "improperly" or trying to influence a judge.

'Clearing the air'

Conservative chairman Theresa May told BBC Radio 4's Today Mrs Blair's statement had been "very moving" but it could not answer what officials had done.

Calling for an inquiry into government's role, Mrs May added: "What we need is something that just clears the air."

Three Tory concerns
Did any politicians try to influence immigration officials?
Was it right to use a blind trust to purchase property?
Exactly what part did Downing Street press officers play in the row?

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin still has questions about what contact there was between Downing Street and immigration officials dealing with Mr Foster - the boyfriend of Mrs Blair's friend Carole Caplin.

The Home Office published a blow-by-blow account of the process to remove Mr Foster from the UK in an attempt to prove the matter had been dealt with in an "entirely impartial and proper way".

But Mr Letwin said unless there was an independent judicial inquiry, he would put down questions in Parliament.

Privacy rights

But Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said there should be unanswered questions because people had a right to privacy.

She acknowledged the row had hurt the government.

"It always does damage when people are flinging about, however wildly and inaccurately, accusations of dishonesty," said Mrs Beckett.

Later, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw underlined his "admiration" for Mrs Blair and hoped the Blair family could be allowed to get on with their lives.

The Conservatives also want to know why the Blairs used a blind trust - where investments are made on ministers' behalf but without their knowledge, to prevent accusations of impropriety - to buy two flats in Bristol.

And they are still querying the part played by Downing Street press officers in the row.

Mrs Blair said in her emotional statement that she was "not superwoman" and sometimes dropped the many balls she was "juggling".

She said misunderstandings had originally arisen through her "mother's instinct" to protect her children from publicity.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"Mr Blair appealed for understanding of the strain his wife's been under"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Some of the things that had been written bear absolutely no resemblance to the person"
Peter Oborne, political editor of the Spectator
and Labour MP Clive Soley
 VOTE RESULTS
Cherie speech: Were you convinced?

Yes
 38.56% 

No
 61.44% 

30800 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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11 Dec 02 | Politics
10 Dec 02 | Politics
11 Dec 02 | Politics
11 Dec 02 | Politics

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