Cherie in the woods

 

 

Dear Ivor,

 

What is missed in all of the newspapers is that the "Queen of Downing Strret" (The Telegraph) is actually harming the fundamental democratic requirement of the separation of power.

 

She has as we heard chaired meetings in Downing Street, advises Tony, is paid to adjudicate as judge and challenges the Government as a QC.

 

What a mess that nobody in the press notices, what a pity that no one in the press uses this story to highlight how New Labour is in effect getting rid of democracy...

 

Eugen

 

PS: See the last sentence in the Guardian's article..

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Blairs face new claims

Call to conman's lawyers brings fresh embarrassment as PM rebuffs trust charge

Michael White and Lucy Ward
Tuesday December 10, 2002
The Guardian

Cherie Blair last night suffered further humiliation over her dealings with the convicted Australian fraudster, Peter Foster, after his solicitors confirmed that Mrs Blair did telephone them on his behalf.

The London firm of Janes insisted that the three-way conference call with the prime minister's wife and Mr Foster's girlfriend, Carole Caplin, was only to "provide support and assurance" to Ms Caplin - an intimate of Mrs Blair's - that deportation proceedings against Mr Foster were "being conducted on a regular and normal basis".

As the row simmered on about a possible breach of the terms of the Blairs' blind trust, from which money was released to buy two flats in Bristol, the Janes statement denied any impropriety. But it left at least two unanswered questions to feed the 10-day, steady drip of revelations.

During the phone call on November 22 - a month after Mr Foster fatefully joined Ms Caplin's flat hunt in Bristol - Mrs Blair, a QC and part-time judge, "did not intrude into our conduct of the proceedings and, for the avoidance of doubt, had no say whatsoever in our choice of representation of counsel", Janes went out of its way to emphasise.

Yet it was reported in Sunday's Observer that David Janes, the solicitor to whom Mrs Blair had spoken, contacted Matrix, Mrs Blair's legal chambers, to ask that Heather Rogers, a senior media barrister, represent Mr Foster in his fight against deportation.

That request, refused because Ms Rogers was too busy, was made on November 22, the day of Mrs Blair's call to Mr Janes, the Guardian can reveal.

Assuming that the two calls on one day were not a coincidence it still falls short of the Mail on Sunday's original suggestion that the prime minister's wife had "personally briefed legal counsel" on Mr Foster's behalf.

But it again raises questions about her judgment in giving practical assistance to an illegal immigrant whose criminal past ensured he was refused an entry visa to Britain when he arrived at Luton airport in late August.

Mr Foster has been fighting deportation since, and the Janes statement protested that his last offence in Britain - a forgery conviction - was in 1995 and that the deportation order was based on fraud in 1988. "It will be contended that his notoriety is undeserved and his past misdeeds greatly exaggerated," Janes said.

Last night Mr Blair insisted that Mr Foster's deportation had been handled "entirely properly" and Mrs Blair remained adamant that "at no point did she interfere in the immigration case proceedings". The No 10 press office also told reporters that she stood by her statement last week that "had she known earlier of Peter Foster's past she would have been more circumspect".

One further mystery remained from the solicitors' statement: why the Home Office made what weekend press reports called a "threatening" call to the solicitors on December 3, two days after the initial Mail on Sunday disclosures. Officials said that Mr Foster would be removed from Britain last Friday, December 6, earlier than expected.

"This decision was a reversal/contradiction of a decision made a day earlier ordering Mr Foster to report for interview on December 18," said the Janes statement. The issue is now under appeal. But it implies a degree of political interference by Mrs Blair to expedite his removal. The Home Office catergorically denied any such interference last night.

Even though many of the allegations made by the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday remain unproven or discredited, the new twist damages Mrs Blair and taints her husband. Not only did she allow a flaky friend to let an even more unsuitable figure give her financial advice over six weeks - a fact denied for four days - she made a phone call, however anodyne, on his behalf.

Far more serious for Mr Blair, the affair has further eroded public trust in the conduct of government. What looks like a legitimate defence of privacy to those inside the No 10 bunker seems - yet again - like a relentless lack of candour in which fresh admissions are conceded inch by inch.

The Mail group, New Labour's most effective adversary, finally stung Iain Duncan Smith into writing to Mr Blair last night accusing him of breaching the "spirit and letter" of the ministerial code of conduct on his blind trust, and asking if Home Office officials had interfered in the Foster deportation.

More difficult to answer is the Tory leader's suggestion that, if as reported, Alastair Campbell, the No 10 media chief, had privately warned that Ms Caplin and her friends "posed a serious threat to the reputation of the government", how could No 10 have so flatly dismissed the Mail's original report?

Yesterday the No 10 press office said that Mr Blair had consulted the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, who agreed with him that the purchase of one flat as an investment did not breach the code.

Last night, fellow QC, the Tory MP, Edward Garnier, voiced concerns in legal circles that - though she had done "nothing criminally wrong" - Mrs Blair's judicial position might become hard to sustain.

 

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