Tony Booth: From troublesome son-in-law to troublesome father-in-law

Tony Booth, who starred in Till Death Us Do Part, who has died, his family said in a statement. PIC: PA

Tony Booth was an actor who found new fame when his daughter’s husband became prime minister.

To television viewers in the 1960s he was “Scouse git” Mike, the long-haired left-wing son-in-law of right-wing Cockney Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part.

Later in life he became better known for his real-life role as father-in-law of Tony Blair - grey-haired now but still left-wing and, as such, an occasional thorn in the PM’s side.

A father of nine daughters - including one born after a brief liaison with a radio sales girl - Mr Booth was married four times.

His third marriage was to actress Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street, and died from cancer a week after their wedding in 1986.

She was said to have become the love of his life after he met her as a young man. He went out with her again in his 50s and nursed her through her illness.

He married his fourth wife Steph Buckley in 1998. They lived in Todmorden.

Cherie Booth was born in Bury in 1954, during his marriage to Gale Booth. But by the time she was five he had left his young family.

She went on to become a highly successful lawyer, taking silk and later becoming a judge.

But it was her marriage to fellow lawyer Tony Blair - and his rise up the political ladder - which brought her father back into the public eye.

Mr Booth, who joined the Labour party at the age of 15, did not hold back from criticising the Government after Mr Blair entered Downing Street in 1997.

In 1999 he railed against “androids” at Labour’s Millbank HQ and a year later said his daughter’s husband had stuffed the House of Lords with “Tony’s Cronies”.

He also risked the wrath of the Blairs in 2002 when he lifted the lid on life in Downing Street in his autobiography, What’s Left?

At the same time he criticised them for choosing to send their eldest son to the selective and grant-maintained London Oratory School.

The gripes did not stop there, with Mr Booth accusing the Government of “ruthlessly” squashing the pay demands of striking firefighters and being “prepared to throw away billions” on the Iraq war rather than spending the money on pensioners.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, meanwhile, was “the scrooge of Downing Street”.

If the Prime Minister bristled at the outbursts, he tried not to show it.

On one occasion, when facing calls by Mr Booth to raise the state pension, his son-in-law said: “I don’t think it would be the very first time I had a little bit of grief from Tony along the way.”

He gave a glimpse into their relationship at the Labour Party conference in 2002, when he told how he was once given a V-sign by an elderly man with grey hair who was “respectable enough” to have been his father-in-law.

Turning to his wife Cherie, the PM added: “I should have given him one in return shouldn’t I?”

His deputy, John Prescott, said he would like to flick a V-sign at Booth too, adding: “Tony Booth gives two fingers to everybody, doesn’t he? As long as he gets the publicity for it.”

Despite the political differences, Mr Booth remained close to his daughter, and was with her and her husband at his constituency election count in the 2005 General Election.

Anthony Booth was born in Liverpool on October 9 1931.

During his National Service he discovered a talent for acting, entertaining his fellow conscripts in amateur productions.

He married Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate Gale Smith in 1952 and had daughters Lynsey and Cherie with her, before leaving her to move in with producer Julie Allen, who bore him two more girls.

He had two more daughters during his second marriage to model Pamela Smith.

In 1979, Mr Booth almost burned himself to death in a fire at his flat, remaining hospitalised for months.

He played Malcolm Wilkinson in Coronation Street from 1960-1961 and had a host of other film and TV roles during the decade.

In the 1990s he enjoyed a revival in his television career, with roles in the likes of Holby City, The Bill and Mersey Beat.

In 2004 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and also had heart problems.

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