Political wife with Hillary Clinton's attributes _ and then one
May. 02, 1997
LONDON (AP) _ Cherie Booth Blair has all the attributes of Hillary Rodham Clinton. A high-flying lawyer, she is strong-minded, stylish and loyal. But she also has another important trait for a political wife: She keeps quiet about politics.
Through the six-week campaign of her husband, Labor Party leader Tony Blair, she sat beside him at meetings, laughed at his jokes, applauded his speeches, made small talk with voters and uttered not one public word.
The strategy of adoring looks and anodyne chat irritated feminists. But it worked well for Cherie (pronounced sheh-REE) Blair, the 42-year-old wife of Britain's new prime minister.
``It seemed perfectly natural for her not to say anything. ... Whatever she said would be misconstrued,'' Blair said.
Mrs. Blair was a Labor activist at 16. And if fate _ or a parliamentary nomination _ had gone the other way, the Blairs could have been celebrating her victory Friday instead of his.
She ran for Parliament and lost in 1983, the year Blair won in Sedgefield, a solidly Labor district in north England.
The Blairs, or so the legend goes, made a pact soon after marrying in 1980: whoever got into Parliament first would be the politician with the big ambitions; the other would be the lawyer with the big earnings.
Pact or not, that is how it worked out.
As Cherie Booth, she has a highly successful career as a lawyer, specializing in employment cases. She plans to return to work soon after taking a leave for the campaign.
In 1995, she became a Queen's Counsel, a status reserved for the most successful lawyers. The move boosted her earnings to a reported $400,000 a year _ more than triple that of her husband.
As one of Britain's youngest women QCs, she has a good chance of becoming a judge.
``I don't think I would give it up if he gets in, and he would not expect me to,'' she said in an interview with The Observer, a pro-Labor weekly, in 1995. ``I welcome the prospect of being the first premier's wife with her own career.''
Mrs. Blair was reared with a sister in the northwest England port of Liverpool _ the eldest child of an actor, Tony Booth, who fathered seven daughters through a string of broken marriages and love affairs.
Her mother, smalltime actress Gale Smith, was Booth's first wife. By the time Cherie was 7, Booth had left for the mistress by whom he had the next two daughters.
Cherie Booth received an honors degree at the London School of Economics and met Blair when they were both trainee lawyers. They have three children _ Euan, 13; Nicholas, 11, and Kathyrn, 9.
Unlike her husband, who has the easy manner of the well-polished politician, Mrs. Blair can appear tense and on edge with a wide-eyed look caricatured by cartoonists. Her clothes and hair are a favorite tabloid topic.
``The trouble is she can never win _ either she's trying too hard with her clothes or she's not trying hard enough,'' Blair told a woman's weekly magazine, Woman's Own. ``I have, on occasions, hidden newspapers from her.''