Blair babe was a French conception, No 10 reveals

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SO IT'S come to this. As Cherie Blair spoke yesterday of her "surprise" at her pregnancy, the world's media was treated to the unusual spectacle of the press spokesman for the First Lord of the Treasury addressing the delicate subject of where the happy-event-to-be was set in train, so to speak.

The answer, for the sake of future generations of historians and collectors of trivia everywhere, is, apparently, not Tuscany, but Gascony. The precise location emerged after Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, dismissed newspaper reports that the newest Blair babe was conceived in Italy.

Mr Blair had been "completely, totally, 100 per cent stunned" by the news, Mr Campbell said as he revealed how long the Prime Minister's wife had been in her happy state. "She's 13 weeks pregnant, the baby is due in late May, which means the Tuscan connection is wrong. Anyone who's been a parent can work it out."

Quick calculation revealed that the Blairs had been on the third week of their summer break, at a rose-pink chateau in St Martin D'Oydes in the remote South-west of France 13 weeks ago.

The Prime Minister's chief spin-doctor, who was told of the suspected pregnancy three days before even Mrs Blair's GP confirmed it, denied that he had deliberately put out the story to deflect attention from Ken Livingstone and the London mayoralty.

However, the news that France was the setting for the romantic encounter may help to defrost relations with the UK's beef war enemy.

Mrs Blair appeared briefly before the massed ranks of the media camped out in Downing Street as the nation absorbed the happy news. She had told her husband that she was probably pregnant in the week before the Labour Party conference in October. A visit to her GP in London on the Monday of the conference confirmed her suspicions.

Mr Campbell said: "He [Mr Blair] said `I just can't believe that I'm going to be changing nappies, and this child is still going to be at school when I'm a pensioner'."

With most of Fleet Street treating the news as the equivalent of a Royal birth, he warned newspapers not to use it as an excuse to invade the family's privacy.

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