Cherie expects, but will Blair do his duty?

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was left dithering yesterday over the question of whether he will take paternity leave after the birth of his fourth child, due on 24 May.

Twenty four hours after announcing he had taken personal charge of NHS modernisation, the smack of firm leadership appeared to have deserted the Prime Minister over the question of time off from work. He admitted frankly he had not made up his mind what to do.

Cherie Blair has made it clear to the nation that she expects her husband to set an example to the modern British male by taking time off from running the country to help look after the baby.

Yesterday Mary MacLeod, chief executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute, set up to advise the Government on creating stronger families, said it was important for the country the Prime Minister took his paternity leave. "He should really lead by example. Although he has a very important job to do, there are times when fathers need to spend time with their family, and even a couple of weeks can make a big difference in the early days after the birth," she said. "It is really important that fathers see the Prime Minister leading the way in balancing work and family life."

Mr Blair, asked on BBC radio, if he had decided what to do, said: "I haven't. I know I should have and I'm sure I will. I'll decide in the next few weeks." And with his wife due to give birth in two months' time, he added: "I know I've got to decide soon." He was also asked about his plans at the EU summit in Lisbon yesterday.

Downing Street was at a loss over how to handle the indecision. "He has not decided and Cherie has made her position very clear. The Prime Minister has yet to respond," said a spokesman.