Members of The Dialogue Society make a presentation to Cherie Blair following her talk on Tuesday
Published: 1 June, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
WOMEN need to be financially self-reliant if they really want to be free of male influence, Cherie Blair, the QC and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, told an Islington audience of young women on Tuesday.
She added that their social conditioning to “be nice” was the reason women were still paid less than men. Ms Blair admitted that as a teenager she had harboured ambitions to be Prime Minister, and spoke of her nostalgia for the borough where she lived before moving to 10 Downing Street in 1997.
She was speaking at The Dialogue Society, in Holloway Road, which works to engage young people. She urged women in the audience never to be financially reliant on “your father, your brother, your husband or your son”.
Ms Blair was raised by her mother after her father, the actor Tony Booth, left when she was eight.
“I grew up in a working-class family from Liverpool,” she said. “My mother was a trained actress but also spent a long period working in a fish and chip shop when my father left her.
“She picked herself up and got herself a career in travel. But it taught me a very important lesson – to be self-reliant. If you support yourself financially, firstly you won’t have to worry about anyone leaving you, but secondly you can make choices you couldn’t otherwise make. You can say no to your father, your brother, your husband or your son.”
Speaking of the overall pay gap of 20 per cent between men’s and women’s annual salaries, she said: “Part of the reason why men are still paid a higher salary is because girls are socially conditioned to be nice, so that holds them back from asking for a salary increase.”
The mother-of-four said the trials and tribulations of her youth toughened her up for the Downing Street years.
“When I first went to Downing Street I felt some people, especially some newspapers, were snobby about me being there,” she said. “But I have spent my life taking risks and pushing myself forward, and by the time I’d got there I’d learned a lot of lessons that helped me deal with that attitude. I have no regrets about my life, because it’s made me who I am.”
Ms Blair described her return to Islington as “incredibly heart-warming”. “My sister-in-law runs Islington Chinese Association, and we lived in Highbury for years when the children were little,” she said. “Going past the Sobell Centre as I came here an entire raft of memories were reignited for me.”