• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Blair’s (Under)Pants

Last year saw one of the weirdest “scandals” to erupt around Tony Blair. His wife, Cherie Booth, was receiving advice and friendship from a New Age therapist named Carole Caplin, whose partner was a convicted Australian fraudster named Peter Foster. Foster helped Booth buy an apartment, creating an opening for reactionary British tabloids frustrated at being unable to attack Tony Blair politically from the right. The odious Daily Mail was at the forefront, but given that the apartment story, while damaging, was not really that serious, the rag tried to portray Booth’s liking for Caplin’s quackish therapies as a national crisis, devoting dozens of pages spread over days to humilating Booth in an attempt to wound her husband. Now Foster, living in Australia and separated from Caplin, has written a book with the help of a Mail freelancer, in which he alleges that Caplin was also close to Blair. According to today’s Observer, the book alleges that

Caplin shared late-night telephone conversations [with Blair] and went for long walks in the woods at the Prime Minister’s official residence, Chequers.

She also gave him advice on what clothes to wear, down to his underpants.

Whether he took the advice is unstated; and, given Foster’s background, the whole story is quite likely rubbish. However, whereas with Bush what you see is more or less what you get (although there is the notorious suppressed tape of his pre-election speech to Tim LaHaye’s Council for National Policy), Blair’s religiosity is somewhat mysterious.

Like Booth, Blair also enjoys some New Age therapies: Francis Wheen’s new book records how Blair and Booth underwent a rebirthing experience in Mexico, which allegedly involved being smeared with mud and papaya and indulging in primal screaming. My question is how that went down with Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle. Dow was Blair’s university chaplain, and he is probably the highest clergyman in the Church of England to espouse the “deliverance” ideas of the likes of Derek Prince or C. Peter Wagner. According to one report derived from his booklet Explaining Deliverance, Dow believes that

miscarriages denote the work of evil spirits and that people who choose black cars may well be possessed.

(From stories I have heard, Dow also has the habit of suddenly performing exorcisms on people he has decided are demonically oppressed, including bewildered teenagers up for confirmation)

However, Blair is also a regular worshipper at Westminster Cathedral, the centre of English Catholicism, and he got into trouble with the late Cardinal Hume for taking communion there despite being Anglican. It seems that Blair is probably virtually Catholic, but has not converted because he wants to avoid media attention, or perhaps for reasons concerning Northern Ireland. He is friends with Hans Küng, the dissident German Catholic priest and intellectual whose ability to knock off huge tomes makes him the James Michener of serious theology. Much to the bewilderment of political hacks, Blair chose to give a paper at a conference organised by Küng in Tübingen in 2000. Blair’s religion is rather more sophisticated than underpants, demons and papaya.

2 Responses

  1. Well… I was going to chastise you for straying so far from the purported theme of your blog. But then you redeemed yourself at the end by tying this underwear story somehow back to religion. You’re off the hook this time.

    I say, would you care to visit Fiona and read today’s posting (3/8/04)? I’d like some fresh opinion from out there. I’m feeling a bit like a prion, turning all inwards on myself and stuff. I work at home and live alone, you see.

  2. Actually, it didn’t occur to me that the claim about the underwear might not in itself be connected to religion. I just assumed it was some weird fashion feng shui. Shows what a one-track mind can do…

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