Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Diaper Changing at 10 Downing Street ; Prime Minister Tony Blair Will Be the First British Leader in 150 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Diaper Changing at 10 Downing Street ; Prime Minister Tony Blair Will Be the First British Leader in 150 Years

Article excerpt

For the past couple of years it was Northern Ireland that kept British Prime Minister Tony Blair awake at night. Soon there will be a new distraction.

Mr. Blair's surprise announcement over the weekend that he and his wife, Cherie, are expecting another child - their fourth - next May has been greeted with delight by the British press.

But political analysts foresee complications ahead. Michael White, political editor of the Guardian newspaper, says the year ahead will be "a turbulent time." The Blair's official London residence, 10 Downing Street, is "really just a small place," Mr. White notes. "The idea of accommodating a newborn baby, with all that that entails, in the upstairs living quarters, strains the imagination."

Blair, who said he was "utterly shocked and surprised, but also delighted," foresees challenges ahead, too. The day after the announcement, he told reporters: "I just can't believe that I'm going to be changing nappies [diapers] again."

Four a.m. feedings are certain to impact his wife's busy professional life as well. Mrs. Blair is a sought-after and highly paid legal advocate.

Staff at Downing Street are having to do some quick forward planning. The last British prime minister known to father a child while in office was Lord John Russell, whose son, George, was born in 1848. A source inside the Blair residence said, "This is all uncharted territory for us. I suppose we'll have to erect some kind of safety fence at the top of the staircase." There will also be parking problems at No. 10 - inside the house, that is, not out on the street. Household staff members are quoted in the tabloid press as saying they're going to have to find room for a baby carriage in the cramped hallway at the foot of the stairs.

Privacy is also bound to be a concern. In the 2-1/2 years the Blairs have inhabited Downing Street, the British media have allowed their three children (teenage sons Euan and Nicholas and daughter Kathryn, 11) to enjoy a low media profile, even though they attend school in central London. …

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