OPINION: Cherie's feel is the real deal

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

How do you judge motivation? In my day job as a journalist, I often end up interviewing celebrities who tell me why they are doing what they are doing for charities. There is usually much talk of the responsibility that goes with being in the public eye, the natural links between their work and that of a campaigning organisation - all commendable, all requiring them to commit time and energy, but sometimes, I suspect, it is rather less than a passion.

Cherie Booth QC doesn't always get a kind press - Prime Ministers' consorts rarely do. Audrey Callaghan looked a mess, Dennis Thatcher was a right-wing idiot and Norma Major a doormat addicted to her Teasmaid. Today, instead of celebrating the fact that our PM's wife is an intelligent woman with a distinguished legal career, too often we snipe at her clothes, her choice of friends and her mothering skills. We have even made a celebrity out of her not-always-loyal half-sister. She's damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. If I were her, I would have given up trying to square the circle years ago and concentrated on my career and family.

It is to her huge credit that she hasn't allowed herself to be put off from giving strong, valued but low-key support to a number of causes close to her heart. I had the special treat last week of walking up to the door of Number 10 to attend a reception she gave there for a charity I am involved with. It was a great backdrop and had that special magic that comes from being inside somewhere you usually only see the outside of. But what truly made it a memorable evening was Cherie Booth's own evident passion for the charity's chosen field. When she spoke she was not someone going through the motions as befits her role as charitable patron and partner to the PM. She cared deeply, had put herself out to follow up that interest in private, and had, in doing so, risked being knocked off the careful line she treads to avoid criticism that she uses her special position to interfere in politics. It left a deep impression on me and on others present.

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