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Conman draws Blairs closer

London, Dec. 15: Tony Blair plans to spend more time with his wife, following the couple’s gruelling experience in the past fortnight, according to close friends of the Prime Minister.

The couple are looking at ways of spending more time together.

Blair’s closest allies said that he feels guilty about his failure to do more to prevent his wife becoming entangled with Peter Foster, the conman who handled the purchase of two flats for the Blairs in Bristol.

Friends of the Prime Minister and his wife said they would review their respective work commitments, including the large number of evening events they host at Number 10 and their many foreign trips. They will also make an effort to spend fewer weekends apart.

A family friend said: “He feels that if he had been more involved, perhaps she would not have got enmeshed with Foster. He feels quite guilty about that. The whole thing has been a catharsis for them. They will spend more time with each other.

“Cherie feels guilty because she made a catastrophic mistake that brought the government and her husband into disrepute. If she could have her time again, she would not have dissembled to the media. She regrets that more than anyone.”

Another confidant of the Blairs said: “Tony feels that he has not been looking out for Cherie as he should have done. He worries that perhaps if he had paid more attention to the flats deal she would not have got into this mess.”

Ministers said Blair would find it difficult to cut down on his official workload but that the more optional social events may be reduced.

The Blairs are due to spend Boxing Day and the New Year holiday at Chequers.

The Prime Minister may be under pressure to go to the Middle East during the New Year break as part of renewed diplomatic effort before a possible war with Iraq but Downing Street said last night that no foreign trips were in his diary for the recess of Parliament, which starts on Thursday.

In her unprecedented personal statement last week, Cherie Blair said the pressures of life in office had led to her mistakes in becoming involved with Foster, the boyfriend of her close friend Carole Caplin.

Declaring she was not “superwoman”, she said: “The reality of my daily life is that I am juggling a lot of balls in the air.”

She added: “Trying to be a good wife and mother, trying to be the prime ministerial consort at home and abroad, and being a barrister, a charity worker. And sometimes some of the balls get dropped. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Some Blairite ministers fear that any hint that the Prime Minister is reducing his workload will lead to misguided speculation that he is preparing to step down.

However, others have acknowledged that the pressures on Blair and his wife contributed to the mistakes made over the Foster affair. “You are in a vicious circle,” said a minister. “But I cannot see Tony cutting back. He has too much energy in him. She will find it difficult to cut back, too. That is the problem.”

Meanwhile, Foster is threatening further disclosures tomorrow.

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