In her ‘final interview’, former lifestyle coach reveals how media scrutiny in Downing Street pushed her to a breakdown
Tony and Cherie Blair’s former “lifestyle coach”, Carole Caplin, has revealed that she regrets ever having worked for the former prime minister and his wife because of the resulting press coverage, which contributed to a “sort of breakdown” two years ago.
In Observer Magazine, in what she says will be the last interview she ever gives, Caplin talks candidly about the “hurt and humiliation” caused by media stories provoked by her role at the Blairs’ side in Downing Street.
Two years ago, she says, the strain took its toll on her health when she suffered acute migraines, could not eat and cried for much of the time. She was prescribed an antidepressant by her doctor for three months.
“If I could turn back the clock, make a different choice and not work for the Blairs – and I don’t mean this personally – I would unequivocally and wholeheartedly say I wouldn’t do it. I would not go down that road. My life would have been very different.”
Caplin was a lifestyle adviser and trainer to Cherie Blair for much of her time in Downing Street and gave fitness and style advice to the former prime minister.
Her closeness to the couple sparked rumours of more intimate relations. In 2011, during a libel case against the Daily Mail, Caplin denied ever having had sex with the ex-prime minister, protesting she was not “some sort of sexpot or randy masseuse”.
She was also at the centre of controversy in November 2002 when it was alleged that Peter Foster, a convicted Australian fraudster and her boyfriend at that time, negotiated a £69,000 discount on the purchase of two flats in Bristol on behalf of Cherie Blair.
In her interview she talks in detail for the first time about the flats saga, saying that Foster had never been asked by Cherie Blair to negotiate any such deal.
The effects of constant media attention finally manifested themselves two years ago in the form of a breakdown, details of which Caplin has managed, until now, to keep from all but her closest friends and family.
“I went on holiday with my mum, sister and niece,” she says. “My mother had been badly burned by being my mother, which to this day causes me no end of sadness.
“We all relaxed and I stepped out of my life into a bit of fantasy. When I came back, I started getting round-the-clock migraines. The pain was unbelievable and I couldn’t eat. I was working a 40-to 50-hour week and everything caught up with me. I couldn’t stop crying. I was disgusted with myself.”
Asked if she thought the Blairs would feel bad about what she had been through, she said: “I don’t think they would have liked to have seen me or anyone go through this. I’m sure they wish me well.”
Recently Caplin has taken a keen interest in police investigations into phone hacking, having been informed by police that her mobile phone was interfered with by a News of the World private investigator. She believes the hacking dated back to 2002. At one time there were 20 logged calls to her mobile from News International’s Wapping complex, with one lasting 10 minutes and 58 seconds and another for seven minutes.
“I never answered a call from them, so what were they up to?” she asks. “And these are just the calls made from offices … There’s more to uncover, and my case is uncomplicated.” She adds: “I want to know the extent of it. A lot of people lost friends because of it.”
Caplin admits that her attempts to get good press coverage have often been spectacular failures, such as the occasion when the magazine Marie Claire photographed her sitting on the Blairs’ double bed applying lipstick to Cherie. “I have made a dog’s ear of it,” she says.
Her time in Downing Street caused constant tension between the Blairs and the prime minister’s press secretary, Alastair Campbell, who made little secret at the time of his belief that she should sever her links with No 10.
Campbell called her “trouble in a designer dress”, but Caplin has revealed that he has since apologised to her for his hostility and admitted that he misjudged and misunderstood her.