Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 14:57 GMT
Blairs discover the cost of power
The cost of power dressing - Mrs Clinton and Mrs Blair
The cost of entertaining the great and good and staying chic at important functions is draining a fortune from the Blair family coffers, according to sources close to the prime minister.
While both Tony and Cherie Blair earn more than £100,000 a year and have taken a series of free luxury holidays in recent years, they complain because rules force them to pay for many Downing Street functions from their own pocket.
Mrs Blair's income as a barrister is understood to have fallen by more than half from the £250,000 she reportedly earned before her husband became prime minister.
Friends quoted in a number of newspapers on Tuesday explained the couple feel they must look their best when representing Britain abroad and provide first-class hospitality to visiting dignitaries and other guests - but they pay for these perks themselves.
"Tony spends a heck of a lot of his own money performing his role and Cherie has to spend a fortune on outfits for public engagements," one said.
"She knows if she does not she will be criticised in the media for looking frumpy."
She also flew her personal hairdresser Andre to Durban with her, which reportedly cost at least £3,000 for his ticket alone.
Downing Street sources point out the prime minister draws only £109,768 from his total salary of more than £154,000.
While Mr Blair clearly regards this type of entertaining as part of the job, strict guidelines mean only official government functions can be paid for out of taxpayers' money.
Friends said the Blairs rarely cooked for dinner parties with their friends any more, instead being forced to hire in outside caterers because of the pressures on their time.
But a Downing Street spokesman on Tuesday insisted the couple had not instructed friends to make public such complaints on their behalf.
"Mrs Blair has never complained to anyone about the cost of clothes or anything else associated with her support for the prime minister," he said.
"It is fact that there can be high costs involved and that she gets no public money to help with them, but she resents suggestions that she is unhappy with the situation.
"Both she and the prime minister regard it as a great privilege to be in the positions they are now in and have no complaints whatsoever."
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