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Newborn son leaves Blairs and Britain beaming


LONDON - Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip sent flowers. Hillary Rodham Clinton phoned congratulations. And a proud father pronounced his newborn son "gorgeous."

The Blair Baby Project closed with joy and relief yesterday as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, celebrated the arrival of their fourth child, Leo, who weighed in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces.

Take away the police presence, media frenzy, gawking tourists, and Brownie troop that held aloft letters spelling "It's a boy," and the birth and its aftermath were like almost any other.

The mother rested. The father sounded moved. And the in-laws rejoiced over a child named after the prime minister's father, a 76-year-old attorney.

But this birth was truly historic, the first time in 152 years that a British prime minister had fathered a child while in office.

After living under a Labor government for three years, the British got a dose of what it's like to be in collective labor as the country awaited the delivery. Cherie Blair, 45, arrived at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital about lunchtime Friday, delivered at 12:25 a.m. yesterday and was whisked home with her husband and newborn at about 3 a.m.

No wonder she was recently named Britain's most admired woman in a recent magazine poll."It was an ordinary birth, a natural birth," Tony Blair, 47, said yesterday afternoon, after emerging from his 10 Downing Street official residence. As he spoke with the media, he held a mug that pictured the couple's three other children, Euan, 16, Nicholas, 14, and Kathryn, 12.

Blair said it was the first time he had "seen the whole thing through. It's quite a struggle really."

"I feel like any father who sees their baby being born," he said. "It's very moving really, and if any of you have been through it, you'll know it.

He said,"It was quite a struggle in the end for Cherie, and I think she is very relieved it's all over."

For the middle-aged parents, the hard work is probably just beginning.

She is one of the nation's top lawyers, known professionally as Cherie Booth. On Tuesday, she made her last court appearance before giving birth, arguing against her husband's government and seeking to expand parental leave. Moreover, she has stated that she wants her husband to take time off after the birth.

He's the head of a nuclear power who has said he plans to go into "holiday mode" after the birth, while making it clear he can't completely relinquish his role as prime minister.

Even with three older children, there was room for one more in the Blair household, even in the supposedly cramped official quarters at Downing Street.

The buildup to the birth featured news stories on middle-aged parenting, nannies, diapers, breast vs. bottle, and the political fallout.

For one day, at least, the joy over the Blair baby's birth cut across political lines and national borders, with messages of congratulations received from around the world.

Who was the first political figure to reach Tony Blair with a call of congratulations?

The man he ousted from power, Conservative former Prime Minister John Major.

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