Tony Blair, whose days as British prime minister are numbered, has been pilloried by the British press this week for his five-day trip to Africa — with Men's Vogue in tow. Officially, Blair and his lawyer wife, Cherie Booth, are on a "farewell visit" to the continent to mark the end of his tenure. Starting this week, the couple will be visiting Libya, Sierra Leone and South Africa at British taxpayers' expense.
But brickbats for Blair aren't over yet. On Tuesday, the London Evening Standard said Tory members of Parliament were fuming that the Blairs had taken a writer and two photographers from the American men's title on the trip. Tory Member of Parliament Chris Grayling dubbed the trip a "vanity" tour, and was quoted saying that Blair "seems more concerned about how he looks in Vogue than tackling real issues at home."
Alongside the headline "Vanity Blair," The Daily Mail ran a mock cover of Men's Vogue featuring the Blairs and snarky headlines such as: "How to cope if your wife earns more than you." On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Blair played down the controversy. "We try to accommodate as many people as we can, and all types of media. Men's Vogue asked if they could come, we had space [on the plane], so they did," she told WWD. "Other magazines have come on trips previously. Marie Claire [writers] have accompanied Mr. Blair to Africa before."
A spokeswoman for Men's Vogue in New York declined to name the writer or photographers, but said that Blair's ability to shed light on the two most recent American presidents was of particular interest to the magazine. — Samantha Conti and Irin Carmon
FILTERING OUT: The first meeting of Gourmet editor in chief Ruth Reichl and New York magazine food critic Adam Platt occurred, fittingly, on the second floor of Zabar's under a hanging row of ceramic pitchers. The occasion was to celebrate "Food Fictions," a Symphony Space-released three-CD set of actors reading stories about food. The duo's conversation Tuesday competed with the foot traffic of comparison shoppers, dispatches from passing walkie-talkies and the blare of the food emporium's intercom. As actor Tony Roberts read from a T.C. Boyle story about a food critic, Reichl listened, head upturned in poised delight, and Platt was impassive, even when obliged to lean forward so a shopper could pluck a Brita filter from behind his head. "He was wheezing in my ear for about six minutes," Platt said later. "Then he whispered, 'You gotta shop.'" Probably the gentleman had no idea who Platt was. Indeed, anonymity had just been the topic of discussion, though Platt remarked on the difficulty of disguising himself from restaurateurs "when you're 6 foot 6 and look like Paul Bunyan." Still, he said he tries to keep a low profile. A Gourmet Web editor who had been snapping pictures for the magazine's blog promised to shield Platt's face in any photos used. It was suggested that in lieu of a black bar, a Brita filter might suffice. — I.C.