Everybody must get stones

The New Age crankiness of the Prime Minister and his wife could be a blessing in disguise

Nick Cohen
Guardian Unlimited Observer, U.K.
Sunday December 8, 2002

'The most accessible entrance into the Blairs' spirit world of paganism, spiritualism, pseudo-science and quackery is through a chat with Cherie's 'homeopathic dowser healer' - one Jack Temple, aged 86. Temple is the possessor of a 'Neolithic stone circle', which, he assured me, captures the healing energies of the stars, sun and moon and holds them for the benefit of his paying customers. He discovered the 'magic' stones in Pembrokeshire and transported them in two lorries to his home in Pyrford, near Woking, Surrey.

'I'm sorry,' I interrupted. 'The local authority and the National Trust allowed you to run off with an ancient stone circle?'

'The stones weren't in a circle,' he explained. 'They had been cleared so the field could be worked. They were dumped in a ditch and a farmer sold them to me.'

'I see. A farmer said a load of old rubble was once a Stone Age religious site and you paid ready money to get your hands on it. How did you know the stones were genuine stones, so to speak?'

An irritated note entered Temple's voice. 'I dowsed them with my magic pendulum, of course. I made the amazing discovery that each of the 16 stones relieved stress in different parts of the body - the muscles, the brain and so on.' After he moved the stones to Surrey, Temple went to the garden centre and used his pendulum to divine the aura of the herb and alpines section. The trial of the plants was merciless. He found only wild strawberries had the strength to 'contain nature's energy generated by the stone circle'.

Temple duly planted his circle with strawberries. He will sell you a small packet of their dried leaves for 10 (plus 1 p&p). It's a bargain, as Cherie Blair knows. Temple said in his autobiography Medicine Man : 'I believe I've helped the lame to walk, the barren to conceive, and the sad to smile. I've been able to reflate the lungs of children previously condemned to a life constricted by asthma. I've even seen the bald pates of middle-aged and elderly men begin to spring hair growth again.'

Don't mock him. Fergie [Prince Andrew's former wife) and, inevitably, the late Princess Di [Diana Spencer, former wife of Prince Charles] have acclaimed him as a healing genius. Temple is happy to allow everyone to share the inner harmony of royalty and the Blairs. For 85 he will sell you a pile of stones and instructions on how to lay them out in the garden. (This time he doesn't mention the cost of the post and packing, which I suspect will be steep.)

Cherie Blair was introduced to the doddering dowser by Sylvia and Carole Caplin. Sylvia, 67, is a former ballet dancer turned spiritualist. On 11 November, the Daily Mail published an extraordinary piece. According to a former client, Caplin Senior 'can bring the light down' and open channels with the dead. Mrs Blair regularly visits the mystic's 500,000 house in a gated park in Dorking. It, too, is filled with stones. 'There was a particularly active period in the summer when Sylvia was channelling for Cherie over two or three times a week, with almost daily contact between them,' the Mail reported. 'There were times when Cherie's faxes ran to 10 pages.'

This can't possibly be true, I thought. I phoned Downing Street and asked if they denied the story. The press officer promised to call back, but never did. I checked if the Mail had received a complaint. The paper hadn't heard a squeak of protest. I think we can take the silence as a confirmation.

Caplin's daughter is the former soft-porn model who became Mrs and Mr Blair's style guru and confidante in 1994. She has been a lady in waiting at the New Labour court since. Her boyfriend is Peter Foster, an Australian fraudster with a criminal record that goes back to 1983. After a week of stupendous lies, the Blairs admitted Foster had somehow secured them two flats in Bristol at 69,000 off the market price - or about three times the annual pay of a fire officer.

The mother is as alarming as her daughter's crooked lover. Cherie evidently believes Caplin senior is in touch with the other side, and Caplin may well believe she can natter with the dead herself. None of her clients has suggested she played on their fear and credulity. But, so what? Whether she is a sincere fool or a sly fraud doesn't matter. A con's a con whatever the mental state of the con woman. What spiritualists say is a lie whether they know it or not.

Modern spiritualism began in 1848 when two sisters from New York State announced that they had received coded tapping messages from the ghost of a murdered peddler. The scam was a great success. For 40 years Margaret and Katherine Fox made a good living from a fraud which inspired mediums the world over. At the end of their lives the Foxes admitted that the knocking sounds seance-goers had heard were made by Margaret - who had mastered the knack of snapping her toes. Their belated honesty did no good and spiritualism continued to flourish.

Given its history, why does Cherie believe it? Well she is a Catholic and her husband is an Anglo-Catholic, and if you can believe that wine and a wafer are the blood and body of Christ you can believe anything. Or, indeed, everything. Until now, there has been an averting of well-bred eyes from the superstitions of our creepy PM and his gullible wife.

A year ago, the Times printed the following account of what they did on their summer holidays at the luxurious Maroma Hotel on Mexico's Caribbean coast. The Blairs visited a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a Mayan womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs saw the shapes of animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. They smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, and then let out a primal scream of purifying agony. No one followed-up the Times's scoop - deference is not as dead as some people would have you think.

When the Blairs moved into Downing Street, a feng shui expert rearranged the furniture at Number 10. Cherie wears a 'magic pendant' known as the BioElectric Shield, which is filled with 'a matrix of specially cut quartz crystals' that surround the wearer with 'a cocoon of energy' and ward off evil forces. (It was given to her by Hillary Clinton, another political spouse who combines the characteristic Third Way vices of sharp practice and bone-headedness.) Then there have been inflatable Flowtron trousers, auricular therapy and acupuncture pins in the ear.

New Age Labour has spilled out of Downing Street and blighted public policy. In January 1999, for instance, the Government recruited a feng shui consultant, Renuka Wickmaratne, to discover a magical way to improve inner-city estates without raising taxes.

'Red and orange flowers would reduce crime,' she concluded, 'and introducing a water feature would reduce poverty. I was brought up with this ancient knowledge.' Three years later the Government announced that, for the first time since the creation of the NHS, 'alternative' remedies could be granted the same status as conventional treatments, despite the absence of evidence that they might cure the sick. According to the Sunday Times, 'The inclusion of Indian ayurvedic medicine, a preventative approach to healing using diet, yoga and meditation, is thought to have been influenced by Cherie Blair's interest in alternative therapy.'

The Blairs' interest, along with that of Di and Fergie (in mystics as well as allegedly neolithic circles), of Prince Phillip (a subscriber to Flying Saucer Review since the magazine began publication in the mid-1950s) and of Margaret Thatcher (in electro-shock bath therapy), show that superstition isn't always the preserve of the hopeless poor. It can appeal to the feeble-minded everywhere, from the 'anarcho-primitives' of the anti-capitalist movement to the supposedly tough Tories who turn from the exposés of the Blairs at the front of the Mail to friendly discussions of how the Bible Code predicted whatever happened last week at the back.

Nothing worth having can come from their babblings, and not only because 10 Downing Street is beginning to look like a tsar's court filled with shamans and holy-rolling petty criminals.

At the heart of New Age crankiness is a deep selfishness. The treatments favoured by the Blairs and so many from their natural constituency in the upper-middle class promise to release the true self, heal the abused self, pamper the stressed self and reassure the doubting self that deep down inside there is good. Others don't get a look in.

The only possible benefit is that at least I will stop hearing Labour MPs saying that Cherie will keep Tony's feet on the ground and make him stick to socialist principles. What's left of the Labour movement is going to have to face the weirdness of its leading couple without illusion and, I hope, purify itself by colonically irrigating the Blairs out of the system.

This article is from the Guardian Unlimited Observer at http://www.observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,856064,00.html .