Independent (England), Dec. 6, 2002
By Nigel Morris, Political Correspondent
Carole Caplin has driven Tony Blair’s closest advisers to distraction in the 10 years she has been nutritional, fashion and spiritual adviser to the Prime Minister’s wife.
Even Alastair Campbell and his partner Fiona Millar, who acts as Cherie Blair’s press minder, have long given up hope of breaking the link between the two women. Ms Millar has told friends who have dared broach the subject of Mrs Caplin’s influence in No 10: “We don’t go there.”
For years, Downing Street aides have been acutely aware of the public relations dangers posed by the women’s friendship. Mrs Caplin’s colourful past as a topless model and dancer, her links to a New Age cult accused of “brainwashing“, and her keen advocacy of alternative therapies are hardly calculated to boost New Labour’s efforts to appeal to Middle England.
The women met in 1992 when Mrs Blair was attending fitness classes run by Mrs Caplin at the Albany gym in central London. They hit it off immediately, with Mrs Caplin appearing to fill a need in her new friend who, while a highly successful and confident barrister, struggled to cope with the relentless media attention after her husband became Labour leader in 1994. Mrs Caplin convinced Mrs Blair that she could help prepare her to cope with the spotlight.
That year, thanks to her model looks and salacious history, she caused an instant tabloid sensation when she appeared at Mrs Blair’s side at the Labour conference in Blackpool. She was described as Mrs Blair’s personal assistant.
Mrs Caplin pleaded with photographers at the time: “Don’t do me – I’m a nobody.” But it rapidly became clear that was far from the full truth. She supervises Mrs Blair’s personal training, chooses many of her clothes, advises on grooming and picks up shopping.
Mrs Caplin has also introduced her to alternative health gurus, including her own mother Sylvia, who offers a service supposedly connecting clients to the spirit world. She also recommended Jack Temple – who dowses for “poisons and blockages” with a crystal pendant – to Mrs Blair when she complained of suffering from swollen ankles.
Now Mrs Caplin is an accepted part of the Blairs’ inner circle, although it is not clear whether the Prime Minister shares his wife’s affection for her mentor and friend. She has holidayed with Mrs Blair and her mother in Portugal and the two women went shopping in Paris earlier this year.
Mrs Caplin, 40, grew up in west London. As a teenager she embarked on a pop music and modelling career. Her CV from the period includes a topless appearance in the Daily Star, and a part in an Adam Ant video. After spells spent in fitness training and working in a clothes shop, Mrs Caplin launched, with her mother, her own company, Holistix – described as “a revolutionary health and fitness system”. But the receivers moved in during 1992 and she began taking exercise classes at the Albany. Within months came the chance encounter that changed her life.