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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Review: Cherie Blair on Richard and Judy
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News Online political reporter

Can there be a more cosy television confessional than the Richard and Judy sofa?

Cherie Blair on Richard and Judy
Mrs Blair gives her first TV interview
Channel 4's King and Queen of daytime chat don't do confrontational. Their show is all about empathy.

The only cross word is likely to come from Judy Finnegan herself, rolling her eyes as her famously gaffe-prone husband and co-host puts his foot in it again.

Little wonder then, that Cherie Blair chose Richard and Judy for her first television interview.

The last time the prime minister's wife spoke on live television it was at the height of the Bristol flats affair, when she had to tearfully explain to a hostile press pack that she was not "superwoman".

There would be no tears this time.

Goldfish bowl

Mrs Blair had broken her own self-imposed TV interview ban to plug her new book on prime ministerial spouses, The Goldfish Bowl.

But as a media experience, this was not so much a goldfish bowl as a warm bath of mutual appreciation.

The trio nattered away, and laughed, like old friends.

For someone notoriously shy of the TV lens, Mrs Blair gave a thoroughly relaxed and articulate performance, joking about how unglamorous life at No 10 can be and how you can't go round changing the curtains and decor when you feel like it.

She only displayed a hint of steel when it came to the subject of the press and its portrayal of prime ministers' other halves.

Cherie Blair
We can't always explain what goes on in men's minds
Cherie Blair

Batting away a few gentle invitations to moan about the way she herself has been treated, she talked at length about the contrast between press attitudes to Norma Major and Dennis Thatcher, concluding that "we still find it difficult to accept women in public life".

This was, she added, because most political journalists are men, although the female writers (not Judy of course!) can be the worst.

"There seems to be no sisterhood," complained Richard, empathetically.

"I think it's very difficult to be a woman in a man's world and the women columnists don't have it that easy either and I think it's harder for them to show their feminine side," said Mrs Blair.

Carole Caplin

Richard had obviously been assigned to do the hard-nosed journalistic stuff, the bad cop to Judy's good cop, and he was clearly determined not to duck the difficult questions.

"What about Sarah Caplin?"

"Carole," corrected Cherie, throwing her head back in laughter.

"I knew he was going to say that," laughed Judy. "Sarah Caplin" is apparently someone who used to work with them.

"Well, it softens the question," Richard offered by way of explanation.

But Madeley wasn't going to let it drop and - to his credit - he did get a scoop, of sorts.

Had Alastair Campbell forced Mrs Blair to "drop" her controversial "lifestyle guru"?

"Alastair wouldn't dream of dictating to me what to do. He is the cuddly, friendly type."

'Great big thug'

This was perhaps the most startling revelation of the 30-minute interview, prompting Judy to jokingly pronounce Campbell "a great big thug".

The other gem to be unearthed by the couple's gentle probing was that Tony Blair never came close to quitting, despite what one of the Blairs' closest friends, Lord Bragg, had told ITV a few days earlier.

"I do not know where Melvyn got it from and to be honest I think he is mortified that he said it," Mrs Blair told Richard, before going to add, enigmatically, "we can't always explain what goes on in men's minds - I wish I could."

And, she revealed, when asked by Richard about her own political ambitions: "I still think I am a better lawyer than he is, and he is a better politician."

As the credits began to roll, Mrs Blair looked like she could go on nattering to the couple for hours.

How long can it be before her other half drops by for a friendly chat?

Reid dismisses Blair quit reports
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Blairs' family life under spotlight
21 Jul 04  |  Politics

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