The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dreams of raja, life as PM’s wife

New Delhi, Sept. 7: Couples, says Cherie Blair, need not always agree.

“It would be a rare wife who agrees with her husband on everything,” the British Prime Minister’s wife said, asked if she and Tony Blair thought alike on everything. “He would have to be a saint or I would have to be subservient, which I am not.”

Cherie’s comment came at an informal interaction with women journalists during a luncheon organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

A lawyer who specialises in public law and human rights, she fielded queries with the panache of a professional ' whether they were on politics, the conflict of interest between the executive and judiciary or in her career versus her husband’s, Islam, London, the bomb blasts and the Raj.

Questions posed in a lighter vein on food, fashion and films were taken with the same degree of seriousness. The only time Cherie looked ruffled was when she was asked about Iraq. Her reply was she was publicly with her husband on the western intervention.

Cherie, who was briefed about the recent controversy involving finance minister P. Chidambaram’s wife Nalini ' who appeared for the income-tax department in a case ' as an instance of possible “conflict of interest” between a couple in public life, said she was not taking up cases for her husband’s government.

In fact, it was the other way round. She cited a case she took up for a Muslim girl who pleaded that the authorities of a state school she attended should allow her to wear an ankle-length gown instead of the regulation knee-length skirt.

What if she lost the case' Would it be perceived as an act of compliance' “That will be an insult to me,” Cherie shot back, adding that she had a certain standing Britain’s legal circles.

Cherie made it clear that politics was not her cup of tea. Yes, she was interested in it fairly early in life because at 14 she had told her friends she would be the country’s first woman Prime Minister. “But Maggie (Margaret Thatcher) beat me to it. Then I took up law and loved it.”

If Blair were to call it a day, would she do a Hillary Clinton' “I am not Hillary Clinton and I am not going to be in politics,” she said.

Cherie wore a black georgette kurti over a cross between a trouser and a salwar from her favourite repertoire of “fusion-fashion” ' her second change of dress during the day. She was earlier seen in a black skirt and jacket. For the evening, it was “fusion fashion” again, this time in lime green. Cherie also ate idlis (she called them rice pancakes) and vadas off a steel thali.

But when the politically correct assertions on Islam and multiculturalism (“chicken tikka masala has replaced fish--chips as the national food”) were done with, it was time to reel out the clich's. “When we were in school, we heard about the Raj. I wanted to come to India and fall in love with a raja.”

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