Image: 030916tonyblair_hup.jpg
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is on the ropes over Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction.
By
NBC News
updated 9/17/2003 8:47:16 AM ET 2003-09-17T12:47:16

In case you think it’s only politicians in the United States who make monkeys of themselves, there’s been an outbreak of banana eating in the United Kingdom, too. Once Tony Blair could do no wrong. Not so anymore.

Chris Hampson -- Letter from London
THE BRITISH prime minister is on the ropes over Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction — far more so than his friend in the White House.

A judicial inquiry led by a top judge is probing how Blair’s government sold the case for war — and its alleged hounding of a top government scientist who committed suicide. (The same inquiry is also calling into question the quality of some of the BBC’s much-vaunted journalism).

Blair’s surefootedness is gone, as is his “chief spin doctor,” Alastair Campbell, the Downing Street director of communications who recently confirmed his decision to step down. Instead of managing the story, Campbell had become a big part of it, making the headlines rather than feeding them.

THE GURU?

But not before he apparently warned Blair and his wife, Cherie, of another banana skin heading their way.

This one is in the curvaceous shape of a “lifestyle guru” called Carole Caplin, an unlikely character to figure in the usually somber world of the British prime minister and his family.

It is she who has been advising Cherie Blair — in her own right a high-powered attorney — in matters of image, fashion and fitness.

It was she who was recently pictured sitting on Mrs. B’s bed helping her with her makeup, in such informality that would once have sent a disapproving shudder down the spine of the whole British Empire.

It was also she who dropped the Blairs into hot water by getting her then-boyfriend to advise Cherie on property deals.

This was not a good plan, since the boyfriend was a convicted conman with a criminal past.

You’d have thought that would have sent any self-respecting politician, or chimpanzee for that matter, running for cover.

But the bonds of friendship continued to bind. The PM’s wife and her guru rode out the storm.

RUNNING FOR COVER

Until this weekend, that is, when the papers were full of the news that Caplin’s days as a guest at Number 10 Downing Street, the Blairs’ official residence, may be, like that famous front door, well and truly numbered.

The style guru, it seems, may be falling out of fashion with the Blairs. Caplin — who now writes a column in a Sunday newspaper — is complaining to anyone who will listen that her security clearance into Downing Street has been removed and that she has to knock on the door like the rest of us.

She is reportedly incandescent at the slight, complaining that “sinister” forces are out to get her.

So you’d think she might run for cover?

No such luck. The papers were reporting that Caplin, like all good friends, is threatening to write a kiss-and-tell book, lifting the lid on life with the Blairs.

Her attorneys have denied the claims, saying it would be a serious breach of confidence.

The monkeys, and the Blairs, will be happy to hear it — though somehow I doubt they have heard the last of this particular guru.

Chris Hampson is NBC’s London bureau chief.

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