What Cherie advised me about life within the No10 goldfish bowl…

As a new Member of Parliament back in 2005, I was surprised to receive an invitation from Cherie Blair to drop by for tea, a chat and a tour of No 10.

It was my first glimpse into what life in Downing Street was like for a Prime Minister’s wife and I was astounded. No wonder she’d co-authored a book about it, called The Goldfish Bowl.

Cherie, who like me had young children at the time, was honest about the pressures of trying to maintain a normal family life when you live in a ‘fortress’. She told me she’d once tried to organise a takeaway meal as a treat one evening — but the order never made it through security checks!

Cherie Blair and Nadine Dorries at a tea party in Downing Street in 2005

Cherie Blair and Nadine Dorries at a tea party in Downing Street in 2005

Cherie co-authored a book, The Goldfish Bowl, about what life was like as a PM’s spouse

Cherie Blair with Tony and their children outside No10 in 2001

Cherie Blair with Tony and their children outside No10 in 2001

Samantha Cameron has also described how hard it was to get supermarket deliveries, and said she would put on a hat to disguise herself and pop out through the back to get to Tesco Express at Westminster Tube station whenever she ran out of essentials.

As Secretary of State I spent more time behind that famous front door and saw how such restrictions, as trivial as they might seem, were accompanied by a loss of privacy that must be hard for any family to adapt to.


During Wimbledon, I barely speak to my mum. It’s her favourite two weeks of the year and I keep up with what’s going on so that I can respond appropriately to her running commentary on WhatsApp.

Mum, like millions of others, had plenty to say about Emma Raducanu pulling out of her doubles match with Andy Murray on Saturday evening, citing ‘soreness’ in her wrist.

Their surprise pairing — Andy texted Emma last week to suggest it — was Murray’s only chance of success in his last-ever Wimbledon after withdrawing from the singles because of his fitness and losing in the first round of the men’s doubles with brother Jamie.

Emma Raducanu pulled out of a doubles partnership with Andy Murray

Emma Raducanu pulled out of a doubles partnership with Andy Murray

But having won her own third round singles match, Emma had a change of heart — and opened herself up to a torrent of criticism from disappointed fans.

But could anyone seriously expect Emma to have gone ahead and played with Andy when she had a crucial fourth round singles match the next day?

As she said: ‘I just had to put myself first.’

It sounds to me like someone older and wiser had a quiet word with Emma. She is our hope for the future — and Mum and I agree that she made the right decision.


So, as the Starmers prepare to move into Downing Street (it’s actually the larger flat in No 11, rather than No 10, which has been the preferred residence since the Blair years), what can Lady Starmer and her teenage son and daughter expect from living above the shop?

First of all, there is no lock on the front door to the prime ministerial flat. It is entered by a code to which many people in No 10 have access. Officials can, and do, walk in unannounced: perhaps the PM has dripped coffee on his tie and wants a fresh one retrieved from his wardrobe; or he’s forgotten a box of papers; or maybe he’s asked an aide to get his overnight bag, which is always packed and ready to go.

That’s the first lesson: the flat and the Prime Minister are very much part of the No 10 machine. The family are not.

Then there are the paparazzi, who ignore all protocol and will have no compunction about snapping pictures of the PM’s wife and children to sell to unscrupulous online sites.

As for popping out of the back door, as SamCam once did, the paps have that staked out now. Keeping their children out of the limelight will be a tough challenge for the Starmers.

My advice is to make sure the back railings remain covered in the black fabric that was put up to deter one particularly intrusive snapper. It will help the family to feel less exposed and vulnerable.

Of course, you can’t just invite friends over: they have to be vetted and security informed in advance of their arrival. And even if you’ve lived in Downing Street for years and you’re the Prime Minister’s wife, you still need to go through security to access your home. You can’t just walk in.

I should mention the noise, too. There are often demonstrations nearby, and they can be a form of torture. After a few weeks, you may find yourself volunteering to live under the Heathrow flight path.

There is a garden in No 10 but it’s quite a trek to get there. That also makes having a family pet problematic. No just opening a door to let it out at night.

And on the subject of pets, I understand the Starmers have a cat. I hope they’ve squared this with the one and only Downing Street cat, Larry, who often curls up in the middle of the front hall (at the junction of underfloor hot water pipes) and won’t move for anyone, new Prime Minister or not. No 10 is his territory.

On the plus side, there is the joy of Chequers, the PM’s country residence in the Chiltern Hills, where you and the children can enjoy the run of the exquisite grounds, safe from photographers, and truly relax.

Take it from me, Victoria, you should make good use of it. It will keep you sane.

Election night already seems a lifetime away but the uncomfortable memory of having to spend five hours in the company of former Labour spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, lingers. 

Since the election, he continues to post unpleasant tweets about me — which is par for the course whenever I appear on TV with him. 

I once complained to ITV political editor Robert Peston about this online bullying. 

Peston’s advice was: ‘Oh, it’s just Alastair, ignore him.’ Sadly, that’s the dismissive advice too many women receive when they dare to complain about male bullies

Rachel’s very stylish start 

Chancellor Rachel Reeves looked fashionable as she arrived at Downing Street on Saturday

Chancellor Rachel Reeves looked fashionable as she arrived at Downing Street on Saturday 

Rachel Reeves has absolutely nailed it in the fashion stakes in her new role as Britain’s first female Chancellor. 

Watching her these past few days, I was reminded of Coco Chanel’s famous observation: ‘If a woman is poorly dressed, you notice her dress. If a woman is impeccably dressed, you notice the woman.’ 

Maybe Rachel could give some style advice to one or two other members of the new Cabinet? 

But I am going to scream if Reeves says ‘in our country’ one more time. A new speechwriter should be high on her to-do list. 

Simon Cowell has visited Liverpool to film his new Netflix show, The Midas Touch, as he searches for a new boy band. 

But despite barriers being erected in the Albert Dock to corral the hordes of hopefuls, only a handful turned up. 

Has my hometown, city of The Beatles and former Capital of Culture, finally run out of talent? Or do Scousers fear Cowell’s lost his Midas touch and are steering clear?