Charles Kennedy's wife gives birth to son

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The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy today celebrated the birth of his first child.

The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy today celebrated the birth of his first child.

His wife Sarah, 35, gave birth to Donald James Kennedy at 12.14am in London's St Thomas' Hospital.

The baby weighed 6lb 9oz. Mrs Kennedy and Donald were both said to be doing well.

Mr Kennedy cut short the first day of his election tour yesterday when his wife was taken into hospital.

The party also postponed the publication of its manifesto, which had been due to take place today.

Mr Kennedy always made clear he would take time off for the birth. He has now handed over responsibilities to his deputy Sir Menzies Campbell until he returns to the campaign trail.

Lib Dem strategists were forced to change their carefully planned campaign programme because of the birth.

They brought forward an announcement on their spending plans to fill the gap after the manifesto was put on hold.

Mr Kennedy's spokeswoman confirmed the birth this morning. In a statement to the Press Association, the couple said they were "absolutely delighted".

"It is wonderful for us both and we are extremely grateful for the superb clinical and midwifery support which we have received," they said.

"Everything went very smoothly and we are looking forward to returning home as a family in due course."

Mr Kennedy's spokeswoman said a decision would be taken later today when they would leave hospital, but it is expected to be either later today or tomorrow.

Prime Minister Tony Blair sent his "warmest congratulations" to Mr and Mrs Kennedy.

"I just wish them well and we all wish them well. It is a particular joy when you have your first baby," he said.

Tory leader Michael Howard and wife Sandra added their congratulations.

Speaking in Torquay, Mr Howard said: "It is wonderful news. I send them my warmest congratulations.

"I remember very well our first baby. It was the most magical, wonderful moment and I can empathise very much with them. What a wonderful moment it is."

Lib Dem campaign chief Lord Razzall added: "We obviously are extremely happy today that Charles Kennedy and his wife Sarah had their first baby today.

"We are all absolutely delighted and send our congratulations to Charles and to Sarah."

Mr Kennedy and his aides will decide in the next few days when he will return to the fray. They will also have to decide when they will publish their manifesto.