Britain's First Ladies

This week, if I had to name the two most disliked women this side of the pond -- one would be a Duchess of the realm and the other, the nearest thing to a first lady we have ever had.

Let's start with Sarah Ferguson -- you know her. Fergie, Duchess of York, divorced from Prince Andrew. The one with the long red hair. Relentless reinventor of herself. Relentless self publicist and, over here at least, trainee TV presenter.

And the first lady? Cherie Blair. Wife of our former great leader, Tony Blair. Keeper of all those secrets, successful lawyer. And though she doesn't need it, relentless self publicist working on sales of her just-published autobiography and settler of old scores with past enemies.

Fergie has just been involved in a spat with a British newspaper columnist she claims called her daughter "fat". That the columnist did no such thing doesn't matter, the publicity might have helped Fergie's television career. She's just made a two part reality TV special in which she tried to help a blue collar family lose weight and eat healthier food. The fact that when they met her, the family didn't know who Fergie was, was a rough start. That the second part of her TV show slumped in the ratings was the icing on the cake for any anti-monarchist, and there are a few of those over here.

Cherie Blair has always been a controversial figure. A vain, shallow, self seeking viper, is how those more sympathetic to her might describe her. Up to her neck in alternative therapies, she has chosen her friends and advisors pretty much as badly as Saddam Hussein did. Her self confidence had her wearing white when she met The Pope, rather than the accepted black; and her need to fill her purse and her handbag at the slightest opportunity and with the least amount of effort is legendary.

Cherie's recent book is the kind of autobiography that will help the bank balance, embarrass her kids, and leave a nasty taste in the mouth. For example, she rather graphically describes how the Blairs' youngest child was conceived during an overnight stay at one of The Queen's castles. I doubt Her Majesty was amused, but Sarah Ferguson's use of her children for publicity puts her in the same bag. This from the woman caught on camera having her toes sucked by an American boyfriend while still married to Prince Andrew, and famously described as 'vulgar, vulgar, vulgar' by a former Royal aide.

Both these fragrant ladies are where they are because of us -- the British tax payer. Perhaps it's finally time we turned our backs on them.
By Simon Bates