Blair baby will not be delivered by spin doctors

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Indy Politics

The best brains at Downing Street are drawing up Tony Blair's strategy for the momentous event of next month. It is not the local elections, the deadline for IRA decommissioning - but the birth of the next Blair babe.

Alastair Campbell, the Number 10 press secretary, has decided that the Prime Minister should not seek to make political capital from the birth of his fourth child - even though William Hague, the Tory leader, has yet to produce a Hague babe, to the consternation of some Tory advisers.

"We do not want any stunts or anything that could be construed as exploitation of the baby," a senior Downing Street source said yesterday.

Since their unplanned forthcoming arrival was announced, Mr Blair and his wife Cherie have been inundated with requests to take photographs of the baby, from newspapers and magazines from Britain and around the world, including Hello and OK. It is believed that they were offered more than £100,000.

Under Mr Campbell's strategy, Mr and Mrs Blair will not pose on the steps of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital with their new arrival. Only one official photograph of the baby will be taken and it will be handed to all the media. It has not yet been decided who will take the picture.

Blair aides fear that high-profile coverage of the birth would hamper their efforts to shield his other three children - Euan, Kathryn and Nicky - from publicity. The source said: "At the moment, 99 per cent of people do not recognise Euan when he walks down the street; we are determined to keep it like that."

During a visit to Wales yesterday, Mr Blair made clear that he would take some time off work when the baby arrives, although he will not hand over his prime ministerial duties to his deputy, John Prescott. "It's the Third Way," quipped one aide.

Mrs Blair, who has made it known she wishes her husband to take his full paternity leave entitlement, will take four months' maternity leave before she returns to work as a QC.

Asked if he and his wife had chosen a name for the child, which is due on May 24, Mr Blair replied: "We are in some difficulty because we don't know the gender yet." He added: "Cherie had a scan and I was able to see the picture. It's a fantastic thing."