THE BACK PAGES

His boobs! Her belly! More to come!

Tabloids are an unfailing barometer of popular feeling: hence the awful Blair photos

ROSALIND MILES September 10 2007
THE BACK PAGES

His boobs! Her belly! More to come!

Tabloids are an unfailing barometer of popular feeling: hence the awful Blair photos

ROSALIND MILES September 10 2007

His boobs! Her belly! More to come!

fame

Tabloids are an unfailing barometer of popular feeling: hence the awful Blair photos

ROSALIND MILES

Who ate all the pies? It’s Tony and Cherie Blair, if last week’s paparazzo shots of Britain’s former prime minister and his barrister wife at the seaside are to be believed. Both are splashed across the tabloids looking grotesquely out of shape, he gleefully pilloried for his “man boobs,” she displaying a belly and thighs that would put the Venus of Willendorf to shame.

In a month when Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his French opposite number Nicolas Sarkozy also stripped for the cameras, the comparison of two active, body-conscious leaders with the departed Blair only reinforces his fall from power. “Tony Blair has SNOOPY BOOBS!” yelped one gossip magazine ecstatically, while another contrasted a flabbacious Cherie with shapely former Spice Girls Geri Halliwell and a lethally sexy Mel B.

What were the Blairs thinking? In gossip world, if it moves, it’s fair game, and no one escapes the savage peep show. Today’s hacks even snoop on the Queen: tabloid penetration of the royal breakfast room revealed that her majesty’s cornflakes are stored in Tupperware. Editors worship thin bodies, the product of bulimia and angst, and only perfection is allowed. Stars like Melanie Griffiths are routinely arraigned for such unattractive body parts as knobbly knees. This week Trudi Styler and Courtney Cox Arquette are in the dock for the knees of shame.

Cherie’s had four children, and she makes millions a year, yet she parades her fat like trailer trash in an outsize tankini calling for action by the style police. Tony’s swim shorts are equally abysmal, and his body is a weird disaster too. The Blairs know they will be papped wherever they go. Why have they set themselves up like this?

Like maladjusted children or movie stars, they prefer hostile attention to none at all. A rock-star wannabe at heart, Blair has been in thrall to the tabloids from his earliest days. Cozying up to the tabloids made sense when he had to get them onside to save the Labour Party from meltdown. But any long-term love-in with the media spells disaster, as Diana’s story proved.

It didn’t happen to Sarkozy. Unflattering shots of the French premier were doctored when his “love handles” were airbrushed out by his chum at Paris Match. Topless, Putin too is hardly a Greek god, sporting rubbery breasts and a suspiciously hairless chest in a pose designed to look hunky, but in reality curiously camp. But they are men in power, who don’t get laughs. Indeed, no one laughs at Putin unless they want polonium-210 with their milk and sugar in their next cup of tea.

The Blairs became ripe for baiting when they left Number 10, but in pursuit of the sensational, tabloids often miss the real story. Blair’s moobs raise serious medical concerns: are they the result of hormone treatment to sustain his virility, or a side effect of medication for the heart condition he denies he has? Cherie too has health problems, her body ballooning like any woman who eats her anger and ambition every day.

But who cares? The rags can crucify the prime minister of first recall.

Blairs now they’re down. Tabloids are an unfading barometer of popular feeling, and with the possible exception of the Ceau§escus, no political leader and his wife have ended their term of office so detested and despised. Blair was not the first leader to love the rich and powerful. Cherie was not the first political wife to push her role to the limits of embarrassment and beyond: remember Margaret Trudeau? But they were the first prime minister and would-be first lady of the U.K. to use the premiership with naked greed, as a means to get their hands on all the wealth they could.

The spectacle of Blair brown-nosing top industrialists and Cherie touring her lame “My Life in Number 10” lectures, hoovering up freebies all the way, disgusted left and right of the political spectrum alike. The virtual job Blair has created for himself now as peace envoy to the Middle East is a perfect fit: like Mark Thatcher in his mother Margaret’s reign, Blair has found a home in the region where nepotism, cronyism and backscratching began.

Blair could be arraigned in the popular imagination for his role in Iraq. Instead he is teased for the size of his tits. Will he go down to history as a man who promised much, and ended as a figure of fun? All leaders from Nehru to Kennedy are remembered more for the gossip they generated than for their achievements. Which is why, in tabloid universe, Pierre Trudeau is always the Canadian