The Spectator

Downing Street wives

Downing Street wives
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July 25th, 2003 On Cherie Blair firing Alastair Campbell’s wife Fiona Millar as her adviser, accusing her of briefing against her.

”I told TB about CB’s call and said that it was unforgivable that she spoke to Fiona like that after all she’d done for her. He said people were too fraught at the moment and Cherie was feeling under pressure. I said she needed to apologise, otherwise there would be badness between them that helped nobody. He said that the problem at the moment is that the public will begin to wonder whether we are governing the country. All they hear is all this stuff about personalities, process and the rest and they start to wonder if it’s all we do. There was a case for me going right now, but I was tired and I needed a holiday to marshal the arguments.”

Comment: the widely reported rift between Cherie and Fiona Millar clearly did destabilise Downing Street, and threaten working relationships across the board. It is an extraordinary situation for a press secretary to tell a prime minister that the first lady needs to apologise to his wife. But the intensity of Downing Street can boil over into bitterness, which with Cherie and Fiona is still there: Fiona has just penned an extraordinary attack on Cherie, accusing her of being “niaive” for letting a TV crew do a documentary about her.

Anthony Browne, director of the think-tank Policy Exchange and prior to that the chief political correspondent of The Times, is plucking out the most interesting passages from the just published Alastair Campbell diaries for Coffee House.