Cherie Blairdo, or: Modesty is the best policy

Columnists are falling over each other to declare themselves either for or against Cherie Blair following the news this week that she’s invoicing the Labour Party for her £275-a-day hairdressing bill incurred during last year’s election, which runs to some £8,000 – more than one Labour backbencher spent on his entire 2005 campaign.

“Once you’ve had a £275 hairdo, it’s pretty hard to go back to a £50 one,” protests the Grauniad’s Hannah Pool, who by pure coincidence is the paper’s fashion correspondent. Isn’t this humbuggery at its best? Fifty quid is probably as much as my mum, for instance, has ever spent (or been able to spend) on a hairdo and I doubt I’m the only one who can’t tell the difference between their mum’s locks and Cherie’s.

Meanwhile, in the same paper (or at least, on the same website) Helene Mulholland defends Cherie on the basis that she’s damned if she does get her hair done and damned if she doesn’t, the latter because of her notorious bad hair days, starting with the morning after Labour’s original 1997 landslide when she was filmed opening the door to Number 10 to accept a bunch of flowers from a well-wisher having obviously just got out of bed, complete with a barnet that could have been designed by Salvador Dali.

The reality is that she and her husband were so popular at that time – and, apparently, deservedly so – that everyone loved her for answering the door with surrealist hair. Not even the biggest cynic could have begrudged that to a woman whose life had just changed forever, who’d been up all night celebrating, who had every reason to celebrate, who had just at that moment discovered the reality that she was no longer an ordinary person but now in the constant media glare.

Modesty tends to endear you to people somewhat more than ostentation, and if Cherie had spent a little less money over the years that followed consulting lifestyle gurus and a bit more time on the things that matter, she might instead have found herself taken to the nation’s hearts. This would have enabled her to have a bad hair day every day, saving the Labour Party a fair sum.

The whole story is the perfect metaphor really for the massive affection for (and trust in) New Labour that the government has squandered over the past decade. They could have had it all – instead they screwed us.

Today’s Sunday Times has at least two columns about Cherie’s latest mammon-friendly stunt. India Knight joins the ranks of (apparently exclusively female, and no doubt immaculately-coiffeured) hacks who are kissing Cherie’s bum so fiercely that the Labour Party will soon be in receipt of another Cherie bill, this time for an industrial vat of sore-arse cream.

Rod Liddle however says it all for me: “Aside from betraying the people who raised the money, it’s also betraying the people that Labour purports to represent. I mean, it’s hardly a statement of solidarity with the downtrodden masses, is it. Spending more than six times the (daily) minimum wage on a quick wash ’n’ blow dry pretty much every day for a month might strike some of Labour’s working-class supporters, if there are any left, as a tad extravagant.

“The Labour party is also skint, on the verge of bankruptcy. Poor Peter Kilfoyle MP fulminated when he heard about Cherie’s bill that this was double what he had to spend on his entire election campaign.

“Then there’s the presumption and the double standards. Quite clearly Cherie Blair feels she has every right to expect the Labour party — or someone, anyway, so long as it’s not her — to pick up the hairdressing bill. She seems suffused with a resentment that her various costs are not more frequently borne by the members of her party, or better still the taxpayer.

“She has been known to whinge that she incurs expenses merely through being the prime minister’s wife when, as everybody knows, because we keep being told, she is a Very Real Woman in her own right with an important and intellectually demanding job.

“However, disaffection with life at No 10 is quickly banished when there’s the chance to trouser vast sums on foreign lecture circuits, billed as the wife of Tony Blair. I may be wrong but my guess is that the filthy-rich denizens of Palm Beach’s Everglades club would not have paid £30,000 to hear a speech from some leftie, limey human rights lawyer who had just co-authored a massive — and massively boring — book on tort. As visiting attractions go, it’s hardly Jackie Mason, is it. They forked out because they thought she was Britain’s first lady.”