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Prime Minister Tony Blair on paternity leave
"I will decide in the next few weeks. I know I have got to decide soon"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Should Tony Blair take paternity leave?

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he still has not decided whether to take time off for paternity leave when his wife Cherie gives birth to their fourth child in May.

Cherie Booth has hinted publicly that she would like her husband to follow the Finnish premier's example and take paternity leave when their baby is born.

New legislation came into force late last year which allows fathers to take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave during the first five years of their child's life, though many choose not to take it.

Do you think all fathers should take paternity leave, no matter what their public position?

Should Tony Blair take time off from running the country to take the leave he is entitled to? Do you think the law regarding paternity leave goes far enough? HAVE YOUR SAY No, he doesn't need leave, they can quite easily afford another nanny to help out. Perhaps they can find one who can keep her mouth shut this time!
Annie, UK

Parental Leave recognises a social need, and would help many families. But just because it's there Blair does not necessarily have to take it. I'm sure his Deputy can handle his temporary absence. In the US a President does take as working vacation occasionally, but he is never officially OFF on leave (we haven't yet had that Parental Leave situation).
Dr Riz Rahim, USA

What if a female prime minister were expecting, would she take maternity leave? If yes, then all considerations aside, Blair should do same.
Bate Arrah, Cameroon



Are we getting yet another scheme how to behave in a "politically correct" way?

Birgit Kleymann, Finland
I have a question for RH (UK) - why is admitting that a pregnancy was unplanned, when the couple concerned are married and able to afford a new baby, such a bad thing? Obviously in other circumstances people have to be more careful. And Tony should take some leave, and probably will, to support his wife and be with all of his children at this special time.
Pat, UK

Sure, he could take it, his wife wants him to, but he probably won't because the Deputy PM might actually do a better job than him.
Di STewart, USA

Mr Blair should take permanent leave. I had a great deal of admiration and respect for this man, who until his meeting with Putin, had thus far lent his office the dignity and honour it deserved. But his "kiss & forget" foreign policy towards Russia betrays his flawed reasoning. Now Tony Blair has sullied this image of a moral and ethical Britain. Mr Blair, stay at home, where you can pontificate good morals and ethics to your gullible children.
Tahir Nawab, NY, USA

There is absolutely no reason why the PM shouldn't take paternity leave. All fathers/fathers-to-be should be entitled to the same level of parental leave as women. The world is hardly likely to come to an end if Mr Blair isn't running our country for a couple of months!
Jonathon Haldane, UK

I understand some of the discussion has been prompted by the fact that the Finnish PM took Paternity leave recently...Whether or not this makes sense in particular cases is one question - the other one is: Are we getting yet another scheme how to behave in a "politically correct" way?
Birgit Kleymann, Finland

It's none of our business. He should do what he feels is right for him and his family.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

Why shouldn't he take paternity leave. He says his government believes in equality between men and women. Then, when he comes back from paternity leave, will he grant equality for men to receive the state pension at the same age as women. Of course he will not!
Bob Newcombe, UK

I only have one question. If Tony Blair does take paternity leave, is he going to be treated the same way as other fathers? In other words, will he be paid for it? Or is he going to take the 13 weeks as unpaid leave? I don't care much whether he does take the leave or not, I'm just waiting to see whether he is treated in the same manner as every other working parent.
Kayla, UK



Paternity leave is a gem. of an idea

Dave Hartley, England
Paternity leave is a gem of an idea. I'm only sorry that it isn't going to be extended to all parents with school age children. To find taking responsibility for a family to be a "disgrace" (Colin from England), is in itself a disgraceful and outdated thing to say! Clearly you are one of the many Tories who like to occupy these pages daily, to express your sheer disbelief that you and bigots like you are no longer running this country. Well, get used to it!!
Dave Hartley, England

He should take his full entitlement of three months and leave Alistair Campbell and John Prescott in charge. Then we would see just how good they are.
Brian Singleton, England

I think Mr Blair should take time of and enjoy the gift of life. There are children living without fathers in the world. I think the PM should stay at home a few days - the gift of life is a little miracle.
Barbara McCorry, USA



He should take leave so he can develop a close bond with his new child and support his wife.

Zac, England
As the social roles of men and women homogenise then it is only natural that men will play a more active role in their child's upbringing. As technological and demographic resources increase in the work place, the human desire for diverse role sharing will be recognised. And our children will benefit from that more than anyone.
I imagine that the current Blair children sometimes feel ignored by their busy parents. If I were in Mr Blair's position, I'd probably stand down at the end of term to tend to my children. Yes, he should take leave so he can develop a close bond with his new child and support his wife. Men have for too long sacrificed too much for the work place. I certainly regret my dad being away so much. It hurts.
Zac, England

Yes, of course, if only to give his ministers of both new and old labour complexion a chance to influence the government. Devolution of power and decision making start at home.
Ted Sullivan, UK

Tony has to lead by doing. He must take time off or not expect others to.
Paul Brazier, UK



Whether Mr Blair takes paternity leave or not is a private matter for him and his family.

Peter, UK/Australia
Whether Mr Blair takes paternity leave or not is a private matter for him and his family; although obviously such public discussions are helpful for him to gauge the effect of the decision on the opinion polls. It may sound outrageous, but I can't help feeling that the fact that they are having a baby in the first place is just another spin to keep the focus on him in the American-style personality-driven politics that Blair has propagated since taking power; so that our eyes are kept away from his all-talk ideology-void party.
Peter, UK/Australia

Twenty years ago even women didn't get maternity leave. You were kicked out of the workplace. While we don't want to go back to that why should we all pay more to allow men to stay home.
Joan, USA

Yes, he should. But can a control freak such as him stay away from the limelight and let others run the government? I very much doubt it.
Nelson Franco Jobim, UK



Is Mr. Blair simply trying to be politically correct??

James Kerr, Canada
I do not follow UK politics closely, but is Mr. Blair simply trying to be politically correct?? Talking about paternity leave when you are the leader of one of the more powerful nations on the Earth, in my opinion, simply seems ridiculous. If he is trying to show his paternal side, I guess as a politician, it is a smart move. Perhaps I am old fashioned or some would say chauvinistic, but COME ON is this serious.
James Kerr, Canada

Blair should take paternity leave, just as soon as his government provides it as of right to the rest of us. Yet again Labour MPs, who are supposed to be representing the interests of working people, have voted for provisions for themselves which are not available to the electorate.
As an expectant father of a child due on the same day as the Blairs' baby, I would love to have paternity leave. Instead, like so many workers nowadays, I only have a contract as a freelancer (i.e. self-employed), which means I have no rights to holiday or sickness pay, let alone paternity leave!
Mark Brown, Scotland

Why expect Tony to show a good example about paternity leave, admitting that your child is unplanned to the press is very bad example to set.
RH, UK

Yes - he should take at least 5 Years leave. Get this egomaniac off our TV screens please!
Mike Healy, Monaco



All new mums need someone to help them at nights.

Cara Thorogood, England
Yes he should take time off but only 2 weeks, as long as he makes time at weekends or whenever he can. But all new mums need someone to help them at nights just someone to take over if you need it.
Cara Thorogood, England

I think Tony Blair had as much a part to play in the making of their baby as Cherie Blair and seeing as it will be her carrying it for nine months and continuing her own important role as QC, I think a bit of paternity leave to give his wife a break is in order. After all he does have a deputy.
Sue Thomas, UK

I think that Mr Blair should take time off because a baby is the greatest gift of all and he should be there with Mrs Blair to support her and guide her as she will need all the TLC she can get.
Neil, United Kingdom



Cut the man some slack and be big enough to wish the Blair's congratulations on their forthcoming new arrival.

Paul, Scotland
Go for it, Tony and take the time off if that is what you and Cherie want. It'll certainly satisfy the miseries whose opinions appear on this Talking Point. Whatever your political opinions, cut the man some slack and be big enough to wish the Blair's congratulations on their forthcoming new arrival.
Paul, Scotland

As soon as Mr Campbell has finished perusing the results of this and other similar opinion forums, I am sure that it will be announced that your fine leader will be taking paternity leave to assist and support the lovely Cherie and to develop a special bond with their new born. Join me in urging your Prime Minister to stay at work. You have been warned.
Ronan Early, Ireland

Yes, Tony should help his wife out - but ONLY if the same privilege be made standard across the country! i.e. PAID paternity leave, if only 2 weeks, for ALL men, whatever level of employment and income.
Barb Staines, England, UK

How nice for Mr. Blair that he can afford the paternity leave. Perhaps he will consider changing the legislation for provide PAID leave to "hard working families" can afford to give their child the best.
JI, Scotland

Tony should take time off. His family needs him now therefore he should set good example.
Ola Adams, United Kingdom



Take a break Tony, the country, sorry I mean you of course, deserve it.

Roy Chapman, UK / Germany
Please take Paternity leave. Take as long as you want. Can you also talk the rest of your cabinet into starting/continuing families so that they can also take Paternity/Maternity leave for a sustained period. Take a break Tony, the country, sorry I mean you of course, deserve it.
Roy Chapman, UK / Germany

Let us not forget that the only reason that this is being discussed is because the government backed away from giving paid paternity leave of a more sensible duration i.e. 1 week per year for the first 5 years. Only the extremely well off can afford to take unpaid leave with the current regulations. As for Tony Blair - who cares what he does we all know the Prescott, Brown and the spin-doctors are really running the country.
John, UK



For the ordinary couple struggling to make ends meet and bring up a child, paternity leave is a good thing.

Gerry, Scotland
For the ordinary couple struggling to make ends meet and bring up a child, paternity leave is a good thing. The Prime Minister and a top QC it is a different thing, they can afford and will have a host of nannies to pander to their childcare needs.
Gerry, Scotland

Of Course, Mr Tony Blair should take a few days off to celebrate his newly born child. I don't think he'll want to stay away from work much longer than that.
Sophia Ahmed, UK

If I and my wife have a child, then what we do will be a joint decision between ourselves. This is a personal matter for the Blair's. I am sure that they will reach any decision together, and it is simply none of our business.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK

Absolutely! Children need their fathers as role models in a society where childcare are becoming more and more a woman's responsibility. Fathers are in some families non-existent as they pursue their careers. But how can a man look back at his professional career with any kind of satisfaction when the victims has been his children. Stand up and take responsibility for your family. Take time off and invest it with your children. Give them values and guidance. This is well invested time for yourself and society.
Andre Liberg, Norway

Paternity leave is just another example of the state attempting to legislate against gender. They should stop trying to make the human race a non-gender species and try to focus on the real issues.
James, UK



Employers do seem to be paying the brunt of this.

Peter Brophy, USA (ex UK)
On the whole, some sort of limited paternal leave is acceptable. But employers do seem to be paying the brunt of this and of the huge vacation times\social chapter issues.
Tony Blair should not take time off because his position is an extremely important one and some critical jobs such as his should be exempt. However, if he wants to resign then that's fine by me.
Peter Brophy, USA (ex UK)

Prime Minister Tony Blair should seriously considering taking Paternity Leave especially because they are having the baby at such an advanced stage in their lives. He should relive the joys welcoming the baby in their family which would be quite an unusual experience for them.
Ranjan Chowdhury, Canada

Not if it means John Prescott will be running the country while he's on leave!
Andrew, UK



We hardly need to reward people for having yet more children.

Gary Hellen, Cyprus
New fathers should take time off from work when their children are born - but it should come out of their normal leave entitlement. At a time when the planet faces several environmental and economic problems associated with over-population (and let's remember this is the Blairs' fourth child - double replacement rate) we hardly need to reward people for having yet more children.
Gary Hellen, Cyprus

Only this week Mr Blair has said that he has had to take over responsibility for the future of the NHS, presumably because the person he put in charge is not doing the job. If Blair is that bad at choosing ministers, there is no-one who could hold the fort for him while he is on paternity leave.
Oh, come to think of it, he might as well take the leave - it won't make much difference! Recent opinion polls show that people are finally seeing through the inane grin, and an appearance on the steps of No.10 with a baby for everyone to go goo-goo over may boost his ratings for a day or two.
PJ Ogle, UK

Yes, Tony Blair should take time off from his job, preferably several years. In the time between Blair Junior's birth and adulthood he might take some classes in how to run the country.
John, UK



The decision should lie with the mother.

Paul Elvey, Germany
I think comments such as 'the Prime Minister should resign if he takes paternal leave' are preposterous. This comments slot should be reserved for people who have genuine concerns about the issue and not using it to simply smear the PM.
My opinion is that the decision should lie with the mother. If she feels she needs on-hand support after the birth then the father should have a statutory right to be able to provide this support.
Paul Elvey, Germany

Of course he should. A fair proportion of the work of the Prime Minister is not time crucial - decisions on policy can be brought forward or delayed. If some massive crisis happens e.g. in Northern Ireland - well, he'd still be available.
I think he should make sure that he does not commit his time to anything that is not both important and urgent, and spend a couple of weeks with Cherie, the baby and the older children.
Geraldine, England

Whilst I agree that in Mr Blair should support his family - could he live with the fact that in his absence Mr Prestcott is in charge. Don't do that to us Mr Blair.
Wayne, UK

I think Mr Blair should take paternity leave, even if not to help Cherie, to set an example or even a precedent for the many thousands of British families in a similar situation. If the Prime Minister can't take paternal leave - what other father will dare to?
Elaine Carr, UK

Please, please, please, please, please let him take paternity leave. We could do without the [young man's] smug mug all over the place for a while...
Dr R A Coxall, Scotland



Take some time off Tony - I'm sure your cabinet can hold fort for a brief while without you.

TIB, UK
The two months or so after a birth is an absolutely crucial time, particularly for the Mother, who needs every last bit of support she can get. The new legislation regarding paternity leave is well overdue (no pun intended), and employers should be strictly required to allow the time off if it is required.
As for Tony Blair, he is a father like any other, and no-one can argue that he is less entitled to leave than the rest of us, just because he is the prime minister. Take some time off Tony - I'm sure your cabinet can hold fort for a brief while without you.
TIB, UK

Isn't Tony Blair being selfish in not yet deciding? It is very unfair to both his colleagues (who will have to cover for up to three months at very short notice) as well as his wife in not yet making a decision he could have made months ago.
I find his giggly ambivalent attitude to his failure to make a decision on such a major decision with major implications very irritating, as well as a very poor example to parents who may follow his example and let their colleagues, employers and families down, not in the question of whether he takes leave, but whether he is considerate and courteous enough to give people proper warning of his intentions.
JJ, UK



If this Prime Minister wishes to take time off then he should resign his position.

Colin, England
Personally, I think that Paternity leave is a farce. To expect employers to shoulder the responsibility of parents is disgraceful. It might be possible to come to an arrangement with some large employers (who might have space employee capacity) but what about the small employer.
I mean the 1 to 20 employees, not the 100-200 employees that this government regards as SMALL. I believe that if this Prime Minister wishes to take time off then he should resign his position, just as I think anyone else should. Paternity leave is wrong.
Colin, England

The Finnish Premier had just taken one week paternity leave. I may have fallen off the train but I do not understand men taking any other leave because of children except when the mother is sick and the child is sick. I simply see it this way that a man who takes paternity leave is a woman. The annual leave is there for other purposes for men.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

I think he absolutely should take some time off. His child shouldn't be penalised because of his/her father's position, and after all, isn't the child what it's all about? Sure, Cherie has a nanny, and Tony has a high-powered job, but they're still parents.
Connie, US but moving to UK next year

How many men will really want to take 13 weeks paternity leave? They will probably be relieved to go back to work after a few days at home.
Anne, UK

Looks like he does not have much choice in the matter. Cherie wants him at home, the country will survive without him and so I guess he'll take some leave.
Spiderman, UK

Of course he should take paternity leave. Gordon Brown is only too able to do both jobs as PM and Chancellor. In fact is there any reason for Tony to come back at all, he can be a housefather whilst Cherie earns the daily crust.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

Tony Blair should not take paternity leave he should resign if he wants to spend more time with his family. Isn't that what politician's do?
Oliver, UK

Yes please - give us all a break from his smug grin and spin doctors all over the media
Mike, UK



Of course he should take the time off. Why else did he bring the legislation in?

Allan M, UK
I could think of nothing more appropriate for Nanny Blair.
Vernon Bigg, UK

He shouldn't! It's not like he's a normal guy doing a normal job. In my view, he has far too much work still to do.
Steve Dewis, UK

Of course the PM should take time off but perhaps just a few days around the actual birth. Why have a deputy PM otherwise? Since the family live in Downing Street Tony will be close at hand should an emergency arise.
John London, England



I hardly think that it'll be fair to the baby to have two ultra career focused parents in its first few months.

Alex Banks, Wales
I don't think that they should, rather they have the option. There's a difference. However, in Mr Blair's case, the story is different. He needs to run the country - he was voted in for the job after all. I fail to see how he can keep his finger on the nuclear trigger, one hand holding a phone talking to ol' Bill across the pond, the other one juggling the demands and concerns of GM lobby groups, whilst paying attention to day to day business in the house. He knew what the demands would be when he took the job on. I hardly think that it'll be fair to the baby to have two ultra career focused parents in its first few months. He should take the time off and set an example to all families and let John have a go.
Alex Banks, Wales

I understand where Cherie Booth/Blair is coming from with her support for the large majority of women in the workforce -- since there are times that perhaps assistance from a husband/partner for say 1-2 weeks while a new baby get's settled etc etc is fine. What I have difficulty with is that Cherie has this expectation -- when presumably she has the support of a Nanny to help her through the first few weeks. Tony should take a few days off from time to time -- but to expect him to take a block of time away from his role as PM is in my opinion loosing a grip on his current purpose. He was appointed to run the country and this should be his primary focus.
Murray Croft, England

Definitely - its a great piece of social legislation and Tony should take his entitlement
Jim, UK

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23 Mar 00 | UK
Should Tony take a break?
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