Cherie Blair gave Tony Blair a top-of-the-line Keyton Concept chair as a Christmas gift
REPORT IN THE BRITISH PRESS (page 9, complete).
Due to Carole Caplin no longer being able to give him his weekly massage, Cherie Blair's Christmas present to Tony Blair is a relaxation chair costing £2,900 (and she even paid full price!!!).
By Gordon Rayner:
New technologies lack the personal touch of a masseur, but Tony Blair's new toy, costing £2,900, may be less of an embarrassment.
Since Caroline Caplin, Cherie Blair's fitness trainer and stylist, was banned from Downing Street, after a series of negative headlines last September, the Prime Minister has gone without his weekly massage.
Her mechanical replacement arrived as a surprise Christmas present from his wife, Mrs Blair.
The cream-coloured Keyton Concept chair, occupies pride of place in their bedroom in Downing Street, where Cherie hopes that daily massage sessions will lower the Prime Minister's stress levels, which caused him heart and stomach problems last year.
“Cherie hopes the chair will help Tony cope with the stress of his job," said a friend. " She bought it so that when he needs it, he only has to flick a switch and have a relaxing massage."
The manufacturers claim that the chair stimulates circulation, relieves tension in the back and neck and helps the user sleep. Its seven different programmes, operated by remote control, simulate the kneading, rolling and tapping techniques a professional masseur would normally use.
Mrs Blair, kept the idea up her sleeve after the Prime Minister tried one out on a guided tour of the Hilton Hotel in Rome last February and told her how much he liked it.
When she and her daughter Kathryn were in the Italian capital for a week's holiday last September, she made enquiries about the chair at the hotel, where her personal friend Paolo Biscioni is General Manager.
The hotel put her in contact with the Verona based supplier, Ingrosso Divani, who arranged for her purchase to be delivered to Downing Street on December 18, while Mr Blair was visiting his Segefield constituency.
Despite Mrs Blair's well-known eye for a bargain (there was a controversy in relation to a discount in the price of two flats in Bristol, which was negotiated for her by the then boyfriend of Carol Caplin, the conman Peter Foster, and which contributed largely to Miss Caplin's exit from Downing Street), Ingrosso's director Ezzelino Bressan said she insisted on paying full price for the chair.
"We received a call from the secretary of Downing Street, saying that Mrs Blair was interested in a chair as a present for her husband," he said.“ She said she wanted to pay whatever the public would pay for it. I told her and a bank transfer arrived from her."
"However, we had to send 100 euros back, as there had been a mistake somewhere along the line and Mrs Blair had paid us too much. I think Mr Blair will find his wife has bought him a fabulous Christmas present. The mechanics of the chair give the user a wonderful massage. They are like the engine of a car; they are so finely tuned."
The Blairs became devotees of massage after being introduced to it by 42-year-old Miss Caplin. Mr Blair enjoyed regular sessions both at Downing Street and Chequers and even recommended the services of Miss Caplin to the ex-president of the US, Bill Clinton.
Despite her departure from the inner circle, she is still close to the Blairs. They bought her a ring for Christmas. Her mother, Sylvia, who once worked as a medium for Mrs Blair, was given some massage oils.
Jim Bunting, of massage-chairs.co.uk, said that the Keyton Concept model is the Rolls-Royce of massage chairs. Adding: "It is the top of the range and should help Mr Blair to relax. It is the best on the market, taking into account the quality of the massage, build quality and after-sales service. We sell lots of brands, but we like selling Keyton because we always receive satisfied customer feedback".