Cherie Blair has spoken of her pride and love of Liverpool during a visit to the city, which included a stop-off at LJMU.
She admitted her husband, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, often refers to her as “just a bolshie Scouser” and said she is still a Red at heart, along with two of her football-loving children.
Speaking exclusively to JMU Journalism about this city, Mrs Blair said: “It has a very special place in my heart. When I come back here I know this is where I come from and that’s why I like to be associated with places like Liverpool John Moores.”
The former Chancellor of LJMU returned to Liverpool to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jospice, which provides care and support to terminally ill people.
It is one of the many Merseyside charities she is involved with, and one that she started fundraising for when she was still at school in Crosby.
“I didn’t think all those years ago when I was a schoolgirl going round doing my sponsored walk that I would end up 40 years on as the Vice President and going there to have a fundraising lunch,” she said.
Following a visit to the hospice in Ince Road, Thornton, she arrived at the Redmonds Building to speak with students from the departments of Journalism and Law. She discussed her views on a wide range of subjects with JMU Journalism reporters – from tuition fees and the university’s links with China, to child poverty and how she relaxes at the end of a busy day.
She said: “When I left Liverpool to go down to LSE [London School of Economics] only about five or six per cent of young people went to university, and as I was a working class student I had very little chance of going to university, so when I went I had a full grant.
“In fact, I never had so much money in my life as in my first year as an undergraduate.
“But today, 40% of the student body will go to university and if we’re going to fund that then it’s either high taxation or students themselves paying for their education afterwards and that’s what’s happened.”
With a growing number of Chinese students choosing to study in Liverpool and strong partnerships between LJMU and universities in China, Mrs Blair spoke of the importance of good relations between the two countries.
“I believe that when we have students from all over the world coming to the UK, we benefit,” she said.
“The most important thing for Chinese students here and for students in the UK and for students across the world who are here now is actually just to talk to each other, and interact with each other, and learn about each other.”
Mrs Blair, who is closely linked to more than 20 charities, particularly those involving women and children, was awarded a CBE for her charity work this year.
She spoke to JMU Journalism about another subject that is close to her heart – child poverty in the UK.
“It’s a terrible statistic to hear that 80,000 children will be homeless this Christmas,” said Mrs Blair, adding that there is a need for more affordable homes to be built and the government is failing to do so at the moment.
In her legal profession she is known as Cherie Booth QC, having achieved one of the most successful careers of any female barrister in the UK, but the 59-year-old admitted she still feels that any lawyer is only as good as their next challenge.
“One of the reasons that I became a QC was because the first woman to become a QC, in 1949, was a woman called Rose Heilbron from Liverpool. We Liverpudlians have a good track record in the law, and certainly as strong women in the law.”
So, how does the leading QC, charity campaigner and wife of a former Prime Minister relax? “I like nothing better than curling up in my pyjamas, reading a good book,” she revealed.
Additional reporting by Nathan Pearce, Alex Allen, Qiqi Pan, Ying Li, Jack Maguire & Patrick Arnold