The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cherie sorry, but she did it to protect family

London, Dec. 11: Cherie Blair delivered an unprecedented and highly emotional public apology last night for embarrassing her husband, her family and the Labour government by her relationship with the convicted fraudster Peter Foster.

The Prime Minister’s wife was in tears as she admitted that she had made mistakes in an attempt to protect her family’s privacy. But she raised fresh questions about the extent of her involvement in Foster’s battle against deportation when she disclosed that she had checked the court lists for the name of the judge involved.

She indicated that her decision to break her silence on her role by making the televised statement followed reports that some newspapers were about to allege that “I tried to influence a judge”.

Any suggestion that she sought to influence the judicial process would be highly damaging for Cherie Blair, who is a QC and part-time judge. She denied that she had acted improperly, but did not explain why she had checked the name of the judge.

Her personal statement came after Downing Street accused sections of the media of a deliberate campaign of false accusations and “character assassination”.

She was clearly concerned that what she described as “frenzied and inaccurate” allegations would become so damaging that they could threaten her legal career as well as causing further embarrassment to Tony Blair.

Her surprise statement was a high-risk gamble to try to extricate the Blairs from the biggest crisis to engulf the family since they entered Downing Street five years ago. In an appeal to the public to give her the benefit of the doubt and forgive her mistakes she revealed the pressures she had been under.

She said she was “not superwoman" and that in juggling her roles as a wife, mother, prime ministerial consort at home and abroad, barrister and charity worker, “some balls get dropped”.

But she delivered a defiant defence of her friendship with Carole Caplin, her fashion and fitness adviser, whose boyfriend Foster was.

She said Caplin had been a trusted friend and “a great help” to her when she suddenly found herself the wife of the Labour leader and future Prime Minister. Cherie Blair said she did not know the full details of Foster’s background “until a couple of weeks ago when the police alerted us that a newspaper was trying to set me up in a meeting with him”.

But it was not her business “to choose my friends’ friends”.

Despite Cherie Blair’s insistence that she did not know “the full story” about Foster until a couple of weeks ago, friends of Caplin insisted yesterday that the Prime Minister’s wife was told about his past in the summer.

They said that like many close girlfriends Cherie Blair and Caplin did not keep secrets from each other, particularly on something as central as a new boyfriend.

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