NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - After 10 years being “seen and not heard” as wife of a British prime minister, Cherie Blair decided it was time to tell her story when her husband Tony stepped down in June 2007.
In her autobiography “Speaking for Myself,” she writes about raising four children at the prime minister’s official residence in Downing Street, being attacked regularly by the media and the amazing people she was able to meet.
The book became a bestseller when released in Britain in May and was recently published in the United States.
Blair spoke to Reuters about life as a lawyer, mother and wife of a world leader:
Q: Why did you decide you wanted to write this book?
A: “In my life I talk for a living. I’m an advocate and I plead people’s causes in court and I continued to do that throughout the time that Tony was in No. 10 (Downing Street).
“But my public persona was very much seen and not heard.
“Of course what happened was there was a vacuum and into that vacuum the press created a persona. And it’s a strange thing really in some ways, because my husband was so successful and such a compelling politician in many ways it was easier to attack me than it was to attack him.
“When we knew that Tony was going to leave No. 10 I started to think about whether I might write my own book about myself and for me it was a great cathartic experience really.”
Q: What was your husband’s response to the book?
A: “He was actually really supportive from the start and thought it was a good idea.
“He’d been rather taken aback by the press criticism that had come my way and he thought it was a good opportunity to not necessarily set the record straight but at least put my version, the case for the defense.
“I think he skipped over all those female lovey-dovey bits. This is not a political book, this is a woman’s story, and it’s written from a woman’s point of view as I would want to tell the story to my girlfriends and to my children.”
Q: What role did the children play?
A: One of the things I’ve found when I’ve met particularly the spouses of heads of state is one thing we always have in common is to talk about our families and there’s no doubt at all that the young children, particularly when Leo was born and was a baby, he was a real icebreaker. How many little children in their first year of life can say they met the president of the United States, the president of France, Nelson Mandela, even the Chinese president.
Q: What did you think of the Oscar-winning film ‘The Queen’ that starred Helen Mirren?
A: “I thought Helen Mirren was so fantastic as the queen. It was basically an accurate, but not totally accurate account. It was funny for me to see myself portrayed on the screen — I thought ‘Oh I wish I really was that thin.’”
Q: What was your relationship like with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II?
A: “I was a girl from a modest background in Liverpool. All my life the queen had been the queen. She came to the throne before I was born. For me to meet the queen and get to know her a little — it would be wrong to create the impression that the queen and I were bosom buddies — but to get to know her and meet her was a fantastic privilege. She was always personally very kind to me.”
Q: What advice would you give to the potential new U.S. first ladies Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain?
A: “I think neither of them really needs advice from me. I do think that the role of the spouse of the head of state or head of government, part of that thing that falls on you is to keep the family together by ensuring you have as normal a family life as possible. In this 24-hour-a-day media culture you do have to work hard to protect your children.”
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Patricia Reaney