BBC 'naive' over Blair birth story

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Indy Politics

Downing Street issued a fresh warning to the media to respect the Prime Minister's private life last night when it launched a fierce attack on the BBC for broadcasting a report on Cherie Blair's pregnancy.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's official spokesman, accused the corporation of being naïve in reporting a therapist's claims to be involved in preparations for the birth of Mrs Blair's fourth child. He said it was "extraordinary" the BBC had broadcast a report about the alternative health therapist Bharti Vyas on the Six O'Clock News. The report said Ms Vyas, who recommends women get their partners to massage them in the final days of pregnancy, was "understood" to be helping Mrs Blair.

With less than two weeks until the Blair baby is due, Mr Campbell's letter to the BBC was widely seen at Westminster as a shot across the bows of the media ahead of one of the most keenly awaited births of any public figure in recent years.

In a letter to Roger Mosey, head of television news at the BBC, Mr Campbell said the programme had not made any reference to Downing Street or to Mrs Blair's office before running the story.

Stories about Ms Vyas' claims to be helping Mrs Blair appeared first over the weekend and were repeated in The Mirror yesterday. Mr Campbell, a former political editor of The Mirror, did not send a similar reprimand to the newspaper, Downing Street confirmed.

Downing Street made clear that Ms Vyas had no role in preparations for the birth.

A BBC spokesman said: "We have received the letter and will reply in due course."