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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 May 2007, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Being the prime minister's wife
By Jackie Storer
Political reporter, BBC News

When Cherie Blair, ambitious human rights lawyer, QC, part-time judge and now a mother-of-four, entered Downing Street - the political world did not know what had hit it.

Cherie Blair answers the door of her Islington home the day after Labour's election victory in 1997
Mrs Blair answers the door the day after Labour's 1997 victory

Never before had a prime ministerial consort had such a high profile or attracted so much media attention.

Her immediate predecessor, Norma Major, was a wife of the "seen but not heard" variety - more of a home body who concentrated on family and writing innocuous books.

Before Mrs Major there was the late Denis Thatcher, who once summed up the role of the ideal prime ministerial spouse as "always present, never there".

The same could not be said for Mrs Blair.

Lifestyle guru

During her ten years at Number 10, the 52-year-old has been in the headlines almost as much as her husband - and not always for the reasons she would have liked.

She has dedicated much time and energy to charity work. She is president of Barnardo's and a trustee of anti-domestic violence charity Refuge and has campaigned for the rights of women prisoners.

Cherie Blair and singer Geri Halliwell at the official launch of Breast Cancer Cares Awareness Month , in London in September, 2001
Cherie and Geri Halliwell launch Breast Cancer Awareness month
She also lectures widely on human rights, is a Recorder in the county and crown courts and has appeared in the European Court of Justice. She was a founder member, in 2000, of Matrix chambers, set up to champion human rights and free speech.

She was Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University between 1996 and 2006.

But media attention has, inevitably, focused on her extra-curricular activities.

Her verbal gaffes, property deals, lecture tours and book contracts have provided ammunition to mischievous newspaper sketch-writers and filled many a column inch.

Her fondness for New Age spirituality and friendship with former glamour model and lifestyle guru Carole Caplin - who made the ill-fated introduction between the Blairs and convicted fraudster Peter Foster - have also brought their fair share of unfavourable attention.

First Lady

Then there is her father, the actor Tony Booth - best known for his role in TV sitcom Till Death Us Do Part - an ever willing spokesman on his son-in-law's plans for state pension and disability reforms.

Even Mrs Blair's dress sense, big smile, coiffeured locks and travelling hairdressers have suffered close scrutiny.

Whatever people think of Cherie Blair - she has always been entertaining.

If people do not like what they see, "well, tough" seems to be the attitude.

Here are some of the highs and lows of her time as the prime minister's wife.

1 May, 1997: It's a brave new world - Labour wins the general election and Cherie poses proudly with her arms around Britain's new prime minister, Tony Blair, outside Number 10.

The following day a tousle-haired, nightie-clad Mrs Blair answers the door of her Islington home to receive a bunch of flowers, cheekily sent by a tabloid in the hope of catching her looking a tad dishevelled.

November, 1999: The Blairs shock the world by announcing that Cherie, 45, is pregnant. The baby is due in May, 2000, and will be the couple's fourth child.

January, 2000: Cherie is fined 10 after she fails to buy a ticket for her journey from Blackfriars to Luton, where she sits as a crown recorder at Luton Crown Court.

March, 2000: Cherie slaps an injunction on the Mail on Sunday to block the publication of the memoirs of the family's former nanny, Rosalind Mark. Cherie later drops the legal action against Ms Mark and her agent, Jonathan Harris, and settles with the newspaper's publishers.

Tony and Cherie Blair with baby Leo
Leo Blair is the first child born to a serving prime minister for 150 years
May, 2000: Great happiness at Downing Street with the announcement that Cherie has given birth to a boy, called Leo. The mum-of-four says she is "tired but full of joy" and admits: "It is so long since we had our other three children that I had forgotten quite what an ordeal those last few hours of labour can be."

August, 2000: A political row erupts over a newspaper article by Mrs Blair defending government policy on human rights. Downing Street insists she has written the piece in her capacity as a QC, not as the prime minister's wife. But the Tories accuse her of emulating Hillary Clinton, wife of President Bill, who is then running for the US Senate.

May, 2002: Cherie is delighted to discover she has a 35-year-old half-sister, Lucy Thomas, who she never knew about.

June, 2002: Cherie causes controversy when she comments: "As long as young [Palestinian] people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress." She later apologises for any offence caused by the remarks, which were made during a charity event she attended with Queen Raina of Jordon.

August, 2002: Cherie suffers a miscarriage.

Cherie Blair making a statement in December 2002
Cherie weeps as she apologises for her involvement with Peter Foster
December, 2002: A tearful Cherie apologises for the embarrassment she has caused in buying two flats in Bristol with the help of convicted fraudster Peter Foster. After several days of press reports about her links with the Australian conman, she makes a 10-minute statement admitting she made mistakes in the controversial property deal. She says 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. Acknowledging that she has a "special position" as the wife of the prime minister, with an interesting job and wonderful family, she says: "I also know I'm not superwoman". The Blairs are thought to have lost money on the ill-fated flats.

July, 2003: Cherie breaks into song with the Beatles hit "When I'm 64" during a visit to the Chinese capital Beijing.

September, 2004: Cherie defends her decision to celebrate her 50th birthday at Chequers on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, saying it is the only time all her guests could get together.

September, 2004: Cherie publishes her book, The Goldfish Bowl, co-written with Cate Haste, about life as a prime minister's spouse.

Autumn, 2004: The Blairs buy a 3.65m house in Connaught Square, London, but initially have difficulty finding a tenant.

February, 2005: Cherie phones Richard and Judy to complain that her husband never buys her flowers. She said her mother had been watching and had urged her to phone in to "show up her son-in-law".

June, 2005: Cherie nets 30,000 for a speech in Washington billed as the inside account of the "First Lady of Downing Street", which coincides with her husband's pre-G8 meeting with George Bush. Tories say she should donate her fee to charity, arguing the "commercial nature" of her trip was "inappropriate".

October, 2005: Cherie is under fire after it emerges that a charity fundraising dinner she spoke at is being investigated in Australia. Although 60% of proceeds from the dinner should have gone to a children's charity, it receives less than 10%. Her speaking tour of Australia also prompts a host of negative publicity after it is reported she received 100,000 for her engagements.

Cherie Blair and Hillary Clinton
Cherie is a friend of ex-presidential spouse Hillary Clinton
November, 2005: Cherie tells barrister's magazine Counsel that she would have ended up working in a shop if she had not had a free university education. She speaks out as the government prepares to increase university tuition fees in England.

December, 2005: Cypriot President Tassos Papadopolous criticises Cherie's decision to represent a British couple in a land dispute in divided Cyprus. The president says it is "provocative" for the wife of the prime minister to be involved in such a case, but Downing Street says she is acting in a purely professional capacity.

December, 2005: Cherie rules out launching a political career when Tony finally leaves Downing Street - despite the offer of support from Bill Clinton who said "If she ever campaigned for office and wanted me to go ringing doorbells for her". She stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in 1983.

May, 2006: Cherie hits out at criticism of the 7,700 Labour spent on her hairdressing during the previous year's general election. The prime minister's wife comes under fierce attacks in the media, with one newspaper branding her the "Marie-Antoinette of British politics". But Mrs Blair retorts: "Honestly - what a load of fuss about trivia! It's something about women, isn't it? Who noticed, or who made a big fuss, that the Tory Party paid 3,500 for the leader of the Opposition's make-up? But women and their hair, women and their appearance - it's part of the thing that we seem to suffer."

September, 2006: Cherie is accused of raining on Chancellor Gordon Brown's parade when she is reported to have called him a liar during his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference. Bloomberg news agency reports that she said "Well, that's a lie" when she heard the chancellor saying it had been a privilege to work with Tony Blair. His wife later tells reporters: "Honestly, guys, I hate to spoil your story, but I didn't say it and I don't believe it either." But Bloomberg insists it stands by the story and refuses to retract it. However, despite Mrs Blair's denials - backed up by Downing Street - the story manages to divert attention away from the speech that Mr Brown had hoped would boost his chances of being the next prime minister.

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