Cherie Blair CBE QC (née Booth; born 23 September 1954), also known professionally as Cherie Booth, is a British barrister, lecturer, and writer. She is married to Tony Blair, who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Early life and education
Booth was born in 23 September 1954 at Fairfield General Hospital, Bury, Lancashire, England, and brought up in Ferndale Road, Waterloo, Merseyside, just north of Liverpool. Although her birth was registered as 'Cherie', owing to her maternal grandmother's influence she was christened 'Theresa Cara' in deference to the requirement that she be given a saint's name. Her father, British actor Tony Booth, left her mother, actress Gale Howard (née Joyce Smith; 14 February 1933 – 5 June 2016), when Cherie was 8 years old. Cherie and her younger sister Lyndsey were then brought up by Gale and their paternal grandmother Vera Booth, a devout Roman Catholic of Irish descent. The sisters attended Catholic schools in Crosby, Merseyside. Cherie Booth attended Seafield Convent Grammar, which is now part of Sacred Heart Catholic College, where she achieved 4 Grade-A GCE A Level passes.
She read law at the London School of Economics and graduated with First-Class Honours. Later she was enrolled at the College of Law and passed her Bar Vocational Course. She came at the top of her year in the bar exams, while teaching law at the Polytechnic of Central London (University of Westminster). She was the Labour candidate for the Conservative safe seat of North Thanet in Kent in the 1983 general election, losing to Roger Gale.
A member of Lincoln's Inn, she became a barrister in 1976 and Queen's Counsel in 1995. Until 1988, her head of chambers was George Carman. In 1999, she was appointed a recorder (a permanent part-time judge) in the County Court and Crown Court.
She was a founding member of Matrix Chambers in London but no longer practises there. Matrix was formed in 2000 specialising in human rights law, though members also practise in a range of areas of UK public and private law, the Law of the European Union and European Convention on Human Rights, and public international law. She is Founder and Chair of law firm Omnia Strategy LLP. She specialises in employment, discrimination, and public law and, in this capacity, has occasionally represented claimants taking cases against the UK Government.
In January 2010, when sentencing a defendant, Shamso Miah, for assault, Booth announced that she would suspend his prison sentence after describing him as a "religious man". The court heard that Miah had been to a mosque shortly before he broke a man's jaw following a row in a bank queue. Blair told Miah: "You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour." This was interpreted by some observers as special leniency given on account of the criminal's religiosity. The Office for Judicial Complaints released an initial statement saying they had "received a number of complaints in relation to the comments" that Blair had made when sentencing Shamso Miah and that the matter was under investigation. On 10 June 2010, the OJC released a statement saying that the investigation had "found that Recorder Booth's observations did not constitute judicial misconduct" and accordingly "no disciplinary action is necessary". A private letter to the National Secular Society said, however, that the OJC had taken action in the form of "informal advice" from a more senior judge.
In 2015, Blair defended Rwandan spy chief Emmanuel Karenzi Karake against accusations that he had conspired to murder three Spanish NGO workers and a Canadian priest. Karake had allegedly done so because the workers knew about the Rwandan Patriotic Front killing Hutu civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Career in academia
She was the 3rd Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 1999–2006. On 26 July 2006, was awarded the honorary title of Emerita Chancellor, as well as the university honorarily naming its new Cherie Booth Building. She is also Governor of the London School of Economics and the Open University. On 2 March 2011, Cherie Blair was appointed the Chancellor of the Asian University for Women.
Blair is regularly invited to speak at legal and leadership conferences, and has in the past participated in the World Law Forum, ET Women's Forum, Yidan Prize Summit and the Commonwealth Africa Summit, amongst others.
Honours and charity work
In July 1999, Blair was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) from the Open University. Blair is a patron of Breast Cancer Care, a UK breast cancer information and support charity, Jospice, the international hospice organisation based in her home town of Crosby, and disability charity Scope. She is also involved with the British branch of Child in Need India (CINI UK), and is the organisation's patron.
In 2008, she launched her foundation the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, a development organisation that aims to support women entrepreneurs in developing countries. "Our mission is to provide women with the skills, technology, networks and access to capital that they need to become successful small and growing business owners, so that they can contribute to their economies and have a stronger voice in their societies," says its mission statement.
In June 2018, “Cherie Blair Foundation for Women” was inducted into Power Brands LIFE – Hall of Fame at the London International Forum for Equality.
In January 2000 Ms Blair avoided paying her train fare on a Thameslink train from London to Luton and was fined £10 plus the fare due.
In 2002, Blair purchased two flats in Bristol with the assistance, it was alleged but later denied, of Peter Foster, a convicted Australian conman and boyfriend of Blair's friend Carole Caplin, who negotiated a discount for Blair. Blair publicly apologised for her embarrassing connection to Foster, stating "I did not think it was my business to choose my friends' friends".
Her relationship with Caplin gave rise to headlines in some newspapers, as Caplin is credited with introducing Blair to various New Age symbols and beliefs. Reports of Blair's New Age practices included an account of her 2001 holiday in Mexico, when she and her husband, wearing only swimming costumes, privately took part in a rebirthing procedure that involved smearing mud and fruit over each other's bodies while sitting in a steam bath.
In 2002, she apologised after saying within hours of a Jerusalem blast that killed at least 19 people in reference to the Palestinian suicide bombers: "As long as young people feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up, we're never going to make progress, are we?"
On 12 December 2008 Blair gave a lecture alternatively entitled "The Church and Women's Rights: time for a fresh perspective?" or "Religion as a Force in protecting Women's Human Rights" at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum, in Rome.
In summer 2015, in the wake of the Hillary Clinton email controversy, Blair was revealed by The Guardian to have lobbied Clinton in 2009 on behalf of prominent members of the Qatari monarchy; Clinton was US Secretary of State at the time. In a letter to the newspaper, Blair denied this characterisation of her mediation efforts, describing their story as "sensationalist and inaccurate".
Precisely two months later, the release of another batch of Clinton's private emails confirmed that Blair had, indeed, arranged meetings with Clinton for the Qataris outside normal diplomatic channels, with discussions to involve "the US/Qatar relationship generally", not merely joint philanthropic efforts. In one case, Blair herself stated that her purpose was to help the eldest of Sheikha Mosah's sons, Jasim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, "build up an international profile".
In summer 2015, Blair's law firm accepted a large fee to advise the Maldives government as it faced a challenge from former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed over his imprisonment for "terrorism". Nasheed, who served during 2008–12 as his country's first democratically elected leader, is seeing out a 13-year prison sentence after a widely criticised trial.
In 1976, while she was studying to become a barrister, she met future Prime Minister and husband Tony Blair. She obtained a pupillage in the chambers of Derry Irvine ahead of him, although he was also taken on. Married on 29 March 1980, the Blairs have three sons and one daughter: Euan (born 1984), Nicholas (born 1985), Kathryn (born 1988), and Leo (born 2000).
Leo was the first child born to the wife of a serving British Prime Minister in over 150 years, since Francis Russell was born to the wife of Lord John Russell on 11 July 1849. Another pregnancy at the age of 47 ended in miscarriage in early August 2002. The Blair children attended Catholic secondary schools. All four children have Irish passports, by virtue of Tony Blair's mother, Hazel Elizabeth Corscadden, a Protestant, the daughter of George Corscadden, a butcher and Orangeman who moved to Glasgow in 1916 but returned to Ballyshannon in 1923, where Hazel was born to George and Sarah Margaret (née Lipsett), above her family's grocery shop. Via her father, Blair and her younger sister Lyndsey have six half-sisters, including British journalist Lauren Booth.
Her first grandchild (a girl) was born in October 2016.
Blair has described herself as a socialist and, at times, has appeared to have views further to the left than those of her husband. In March 2008 she chaired the Street Weapons Commission on behalf of the broadcaster Channel 4. She toured the UK and took evidence from people affected by street crime and published a report and practical advice in June 2008.
She is a practising Roman Catholic. In 2009, Blair urged the Catholic Church to reconsider its hardline stance against contraception, suggesting it could be holding some women back from pursuing a career.
Writings, portrayals, and coverage in books, film and theatre
Blair co-authored, with Cate Haste, the 2004 book The Goldfish Bowl: Married to the Prime Minister. The book is a compilation history of the lives of spouses of British Prime Ministers for most of the second half of the 20th century. It covers the spouses of former prime ministers Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, and John Major.
Blair wrote a book of her memoirs, published in late May 2008, entitled Speaking for Myself: The Autobiography, and the book was listed as a Sunday Times best-seller. Interviewed about the book by Carole MacNeil on the Canadian network CBC Television on 1 June 2008, Blair stated that she felt most of the controversy about her in the British media was due to her pioneering role as the first wife of a British Prime Minister who had her own career, with the media simply not knowing how to treat her fairly and objectively.
Played by Helen McCrory, Blair features as a character in The Queen (2006), starring Helen Mirren, about the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, and is portrayed as a fierce anti-monarchist. McCrory played her again in the 2010 HBO film The Special Relationship. Cherie Blair also features as a character in Chris Bush and Ian McCluskey's production TONY! The Blair Musical. Phoebe Nicholls played her in The Trial of Tony Blair (2007). She was also a subject in "Shoot The Dog", a song by George Michael that was critical of the Iraq war.