London, Dec. 12 (Reuters): Any hopes Cherie Blair, wife of Britain’s Prime Minister, had of sidling out of the media spotlight over her links with a convicted conman were dashed today by a new wave of allegations.
After a tearful apology from the high-flying lawyer on Tuesday and a robust defence by her husband Tony, government officials were confident they had drawn a line under an affair that has raged for 11 days.
But now The Scotsman newspaper has levelled fresh charges that Cherie had been trying to help Australian fraudster Peter Foster in his battle to avoid deportation from Britain.
Foster — the boyfriend of Cherie’s “lifestyle guru” Carole Caplin — helped Cherie buy two apartments in Bristol, southwest England, where her son is at college. She admitted his involvement only after leaked e-mails showed he had helped.
Until then, government press officers had repeatedly denied his involvement. Tony Blair’s Conservative opponents want to know whether deportation proceedings against Foster were speeded up by the government as the story broke, as his lawyers allege.
In heated exchanges in parliament yesterday, Tony Blair ruled out an inquiry, declaring all allegations had been dealt with and in an unprecedented personal statement on Tuesday, Cherie vehemently denied interfering in Foster’s case.
She admitted she had rung Foster’s lawyers, but only to set Caplin’s mind at rest.
The Scotsman however said today legal papers were faxed to Cherie and were also delivered to her in person.
In a hurried statement to the Press Association news agency, Caplin said she asked for relevant papers to be sent to her while she was at Cherie’s home, but that the Premier’s wife had refused to read them.
“Cherie told me it would not be right for her to read them as it was not her case, so I folded them up, put them in my bag and took them home basically,” she said.
Government press officers have been bruised by the saga, which also raises serious questions over the judgment of barrister Cherie.
Nobody says she acted illegally but details have had to be dragged out inch by inch, whipping the media into a frenzy.