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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 11:33 GMT
Cherie: The papers' verdict
Wednesday's newspapers
Opinion was divided on Mrs Blair's statement
Cherie Blair's tearful admission that she is "no superwoman" certainly succeeded in tugging a few heart strings in Fleet Street.

The Daily Mail's normally merciless sketch writer Quentin Letts even admitted to "a smidgen of pity, maybe even a scintilla of guilt" as he watched Mrs Blair speak.

But it was clearly a temporary blip and his observation that tears were "every woman's nuclear option," set the tone for the remainder of his piece.


It is not a newspaper's job to hate

The Sun
The Mail has led the pack in pursuit of the Foster story, but it softened its tone markedly on Wednesday.

The paper was perhaps, as The Guardian pointed out, mindful that its core constituency are the busy working mothers, "with a lot of balls to juggle in the air", that Mrs Blair powerfully aligned herself with in her statement.

Like all of the papers, it insisted questions remained unanswered.

The only argument was over how many.

'Sob story'

The Mail must have thought it had all bases covered with eight.

But it was comprehensively trumped by the Daily Mirror, with a whopping 15 questions.

Taking the harshest line of any of the tabloids, the Mirror labelled Mrs Blair's statement a "sob story".

"Cherie weeps about her kids, jobs and charity work but was it real remorse or more spin to save her skin," the paper's front page screamed.

Few of the papers could resist comparisons with Princess Diana and her, in Quentin Letts' phrase, "text book victim interview with Panorama".

'Hardworking mum'

Andrew Sparrow, in the Telegraph, even detected an echo of Stephen Byers, when Mrs Blair spoke of "people who knew her well".


Her economy with the truth in response to the Mail on Sunday a week and a half ago was a serious and disappointing lapse of judgement

The Guardian
There was no doubt that Mrs Blair's tears were tabloid gold.

The Sun, in particular, oozed sympathy, declaring "Cherie won the heart of every mum in the country".

"It would take a heart of stone not to feel for this tearful, hardworking mum trying to make "Tony and the country proud", said the paper's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh.

But he also notes: "The tears were real, but "could not have been choreographed more effectively if the words "sob now" had been written into her script by Alastair Campbell."

'Wounded mother'

Spying an opportunity to take a swipe at its rivals in the Mail camp, the paper's editorial loftily declared "Cherie's speech will stick in the craw of those who hate her.

"But we do not hate her - and if our rivals think that makes us Tony Cronies they'll have to lump it. It is not a newspaper's job to hate."

The Daily Telegraph called Mrs Blair's performance "Part Diana, Princess of Wales, part accomplished barrister, part wounded mother, part Clintonesque hair-splitter"

But it also accused Mrs Blair of using her son Euan as a "human shield" to deflect questions about the extent of her involvement with Peter Foster.

'Political triumph'

It concluded the prime minister's wife would have been better off not making her statement at all, as it raised more questions than it answered.

"This morning Caesar's wife deserves some sympathy, but she has failed to put herself above suspicion," said the paper's leader column.

The Guardian also had harsh words for Mrs Blair.

"Her economy with the truth in response to the Mail on Sunday a week and a half ago was a serious and disappointing lapse of judgement."

But the paper said her statement was "coherent" and "persuasive on a personal level". Questions remain, but Mrs Blair had "seen off the main allegations".

More than that, she had revealed her personality to the public for the first time, and, as a result, "may have turned a sorry episode into something akin to a personal and political triumph."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Vicki Young
"Not everyone is persuaded by her explanations"
The BBC's Jo Coburn
"There are still unanswered questions"
 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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10 Dec 02 | Politics

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