The charitable side of... Cherie Blair

Indira Das-Gupta

The wife of the Prime Minister is patron or president of 22 charities - but she can bring the occasional bit of bad press.

If you believe recent news reports about Cherie Blair, she is like a back-to-front version of Robin Hood, taking from the needy to give to the rich - in this case, herself.

The Prime Minister's wife attracted huge media attention when she gave a speech at a fundraising dinner in Melbourne for the Children's Cancer Institute Australia for which she received AUS$40,000 (£16,756). Only 8 per cent of the total funds raised went to the charity, but in Victoria state, where the event was held, charities must receive 60 per cent of the funds raised in any appeal. An investigation was launched and it was widely reported that the charity could be banned from fundraising and forced to close.

But the CCIA defended itself on the grounds that Cherie Blair's fee was for four events that took place in different cities and that she helped raise AUS$250,000 (£104,700) overall, all of which went to good causes.

The charity added that at the dinner in question "the turnout was below our expectations due to negative publicity about Cherie Blair in the week leading up to the event".

Critics demanded that Blair return her share, but she has failed to do so, even though she is a leading barrister commanding top fees.

While it may be some time before another Australian charity books her in for an after-dinner speech, Blair is much more in demand at home. She is patron or president of 22 charities, ranging from Barnardo's and Refuge to the Liverpool Cathedral Appeal and the interestingly named Chinese for Labour. There's no doubt that an affiliation with Mrs Blair is guaranteed to generate column inches - but, as the CCIA discovered, it might not always be for the right reasons.

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