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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 15:00 GMT
Bringing up baby, Downing Street style

The Blairs' Downing Street home
When it comes to bringing up a baby, most mothers agree there is no shortage of advice on offer.

Books, magazines, videos, health visitors, even the mother-in-law ... at times it can seem like everyone's got an opinion.

Not for Cherie Blair though. When it comes to tips for bringing up a baby in Downing Street, the mother-to-be will find herself short on first-hand advice.

The last prime minister to father a child while in office was Lord John Russell, more than 150 years ago.

A formidible address to start your life at
Little is known about how Lord Russell's wife coped with looking after a newborn, but her "duties" as first lady will have been a shadow of those taken by Mrs Blair.

In the 1950s and 60s, Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan used to enjoy having his grandchildren over to visit at Number 10 while he got on with running the country.

But cabinet ministers and young children are not always a natural mix, and Mr Macmillan used to put up notices saying "no roller-skating in the corridors today, cabinet meeting".

Former chancellor Nigel Lawson, and his wife Therese, might be a useful source of advice. They brought up their young children, Tom and Emily, while living at Number 11 Downing Street in the 1980s.

For the Blairs it seems that space will be a major concern.

Weekend address: Chequers
While Number 10 is a hive of activity for the prime minister's staff and policy advisors, Britain's first family live next door in the more spacious accommodation above Number 11. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is their Number 10 neighbour.

But Mr Blair is known to feel that Downing Street is unsuited to family life and, in the past, was reported to have considered moving out to more suitable accommodation.

The apartment at Number 11 is already a cramped home, and the need for a nursery raises the prospect of some major renovation work behind the world famous facade.

Yet, with its tall iron gates at either end and long-established security procedures, Downing Street is considered a security dream compared with other properties.

The new baby will be treated to round-the-clock police protection. On their recent summer holiday to Italy the family had a 100-strong security team.

Remembrance Day 1997: A rare public appearance for the Blair children
Media interest is likely to be intense when the new offspring arrives in May. Press photographers will be falling over themselves to catch the first picture of Mr or Mrs Blair pushing a buggy.

Fleet Street has already christened the new child The First Baby, and he or she could be a novel focus for the looming general election.

But so far the Blairs have vigorously shielded their children from the limelight. Downing Street officials never comment on their activities and they are rarely photographed.

And if it all gets too much, the family will be able to escape to the luxurious surroundings of Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence.

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19 Nov 99 | UK
Blairs expecting a baby
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