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SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Now super-rich Tony and Cherie Blair put staff on furlough 

According to Tony Blair’s old flatmate and Cabinet crony Lord Falconer, Covid is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.

The remark by Falconer, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, caused consternation and he has since apologised.

But eyebrows could now be raised about the Blairs because, I can reveal, the super-rich former prime minister and his wife Cherie are among the latest to furlough staff at taxpayers’ expense.

Eyebrows could now be raised about the Blairs (pictured) because, I can reveal, the super-rich former prime minister and his wife Cherie are among the latest to furlough staff at taxpayers’ expense

According to Tony Blair¿s old flatmate and Cabinet crony Lord Falconer (pictured), Covid is the ¿gift that keeps on giving¿

According to Tony Blair’s old flatmate and Cabinet crony Lord Falconer (pictured), Covid is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’

The couple’s names are tucked away on the long alphabetical list of individuals and companies taking advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays up to 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed staff.

Their names are bracketed together — with the former PM designated as ‘Anthony Charles Blair’ — which might suggest that they’ve furloughed members of their domestic staff at either of their principal residences: their £8 million townhouse in London’s Connaught Square or their £10 million retreat in Buckinghamshire. But I’m assured that this is not the case.

‘The Blairs have a PAYE scheme. No employees who have been furloughed are members of the Blairs’ personal staff,’ a member of their media team tells me. ‘The furloughed employees are office-based and work from Mrs Blair’s headquarters in Harcourt Street. They remain on furlough.’

The Blairs decline to say how many workers have been furloughed, nor when they first took advantage of the scheme, which, by mid-December, had cost the taxpayer more than £46 billion.

Their names are bracketed together ¿ with the former PM designated as ¿Anthony Charles Blair¿ ¿ which might suggest that they¿ve furloughed members of their domestic staff at either of their principal residences: their £8 million townhouse in London¿s Connaught Square (pictured)

Their names are bracketed together — with the former PM designated as ‘Anthony Charles Blair’ — which might suggest that they’ve furloughed members of their domestic staff at either of their principal residences: their £8 million townhouse in London’s Connaught Square (pictured)

Harcourt Street in West London is where Cherie established her own law firm, Omnia Strategy, specialising in ‘bespoke dispute resolution’. The firm has 11 employees and its directors include one of Cherie’s co-founders, the Duke of Wellington’s niece Sofia Wellesley, wife of multi-millionaire pop icon James Blunt.

The Blairs’ eldest son, Euan, 37, recently hit the jackpot when his stake in an apprenticeship start-up firm, Multiverse, was valued at almost £70 million.

That sort of fortune has so far eluded David Cameron, who liked to think of himself as ‘the heir to Blair’. However, Cameron’s wife Samantha has put some of the 16 staff at her company, Samantha Cameron Studio, on furlough. Mrs Cameron declines to comment.

By last September, businesses had repaid more than £215 million of furlough cash after concluding that they did not need it or had claimed it in error.

Harcourt Street in West London is where Cherie established her own law firm, Omnia Strategy (pictured), specialising in ¿bespoke dispute resolution¿. The firm has 11 employees and its directors include one of Cherie¿s co-founders, the Duke of Wellington¿s niece Sofia Wellesley, wife of multi-millionaire pop icon James Blunt

Harcourt Street in West London is where Cherie established her own law firm, Omnia Strategy (pictured), specialising in ‘bespoke dispute resolution’. The firm has 11 employees and its directors include one of Cherie’s co-founders, the Duke of Wellington’s niece Sofia Wellesley, wife of multi-millionaire pop icon James Blunt

He played the younger version of his uncle Ralph Fiennes’s character, Lord Voldemort, in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. Now actor Hero Fiennes Tiffin, 23, reveals he’s also eager to work with his mother, the film director Martha Fiennes. Hero lives in London with Martha — Ralph’s younger sister — and says: ‘I know she was in the process of writing a spy concept at one point, and I haven’t done a spy thing yet, and I’d absolutely love to.’

Emma learns art of a still life 

Oscar winner Dame Emma Thompson was barely recognisable when she stepped out in London in a plain dressing gown and grey wig. The 61-year-old was on the set of romantic comedy, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, in which she plays the mother of Lily James’s character, Zoe, who falls in love with her friend. Before filming began, Emma, looked to her son Tindyebwa for inspiration on how to deal with not being able to work due to lockdown. ‘I learned a lot from our son, who is adopted. All he had to do when he was small was look after the goats in Rwanda,’ she says. ‘He understands not doing much much better than me.’ 

Oscar winner Dame Emma Thompson was barely recognisable when she stepped out in London in a plain dressing gown and grey wig (pictured)

Oscar winner Dame Emma Thompson was barely recognisable when she stepped out in London in a plain dressing gown and grey wig (pictured)

Mastermind needs a woman’s touch, says Magnusson’s girl

Mastermind legend Magnus Magnusson’s daughter Sally believes a woman should succeed John Humphrys as the show’s presenter.

‘It would be fantastic to see a woman as the Mastermind interrogator,’ says the Scottish broadcaster and author whose Icelandic-born father hosted the BBC quiz show for 25 years.

‘Mastermind thrives on the qualities that John and Magnus brought in their different ways — gravitas, kindness and a searching intellectual curiosity — but a woman would bring something new and fresh to the show.’

While BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed is hotly tipped to succeed Humphrys, Sally — the proud owner of the original Mastermind black chair that was given to her father on his retirement — rules herself out. ‘I’m not sure dynasties are always a good idea,’ she says. ‘But if the Mastermind production team want to get hold of me, they know my number.’

Birthday girl Erin scores with a cool look

Marks & Spencer mannequin Erin O’Connor had a spring in her step as she celebrated her 43rd birthday yesterday.

The 6ft-tall catwalk star leapt across her snowy garden in South-East London wearing a Bella Freud suit. As a mother of two, Erin, whose partner is businessman Stephen Gibson, admits her garden has been a godsend during the pandemic, as she can play football with her six-year-old son, Albert.

‘I’m c**p at shooting but I’m not bad in goal because of the sheer scale of me,’ she says.

Marks & Spencer mannequin Erin O¿Connor (pictured) had a spring in her step as she celebrated her 43rd birthday yesterday. The 6ft-tall catwalk star leapt across her snowy garden in South-East London wearing a Bella Freud suit

Marks & Spencer mannequin Erin O’Connor (pictured) had a spring in her step as she celebrated her 43rd birthday yesterday. The 6ft-tall catwalk star leapt across her snowy garden in South-East London wearing a Bella Freud suit

Frank Skinner has hit out at Netflix movie The Dig for its gratuitous nudity.

Lily James, who plays real-life archaeologist Peggy Piggott in the drama about the 1939 excavation of an Anglo-Saxon ship in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, is shown naked in a bath, then trying to seduce her husband by disrobing and also having alfresco sex with a soldier.

‘When I was 14, you’d go and see a film and you’d be hoping for a scene like that. I think those 14-year-olds grew up into writers and directors who sort of thought: “We’ve got to have a bit of eh, eh . . .”

‘It really annoyed me.’

Joanna’s truly Scrumpy-tious staycation . . .

Joanna Lumley’s Bollinger-guzzling alter-ego Patsy Stone would surely approve of her latest outing.

The Ab Fab star, 74, visited a cider farm in Somerset as part of her ITV travel series Home Sweet Home — Travels in My Own Land, which airs next week.

Filmed before lockdown, she watched apples being harvested and pressed before sampling the final product. And, judging by this picture (left) shared yesterday by Matilda Temperley, whose family runs the farm, thoroughly enjoyed it. ‘Absolutely fabulous time with Joanna. What a dreamboat,’ says Matilda, the younger sister of royal fashion designer Alice.

The Ab Fab star, 74, (left) visited a cider farm in Somerset as part of her ITV travel series Home Sweet Home ¿ Travels in My Own Land, which airs next week

The Ab Fab star, 74, (left) visited a cider farm in Somerset as part of her ITV travel series Home Sweet Home — Travels in My Own Land, which airs next week


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