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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK
Blair baby celebrates first birthday

Photos of Leo have raised £40,000 for charity
Tony and Cherie Blair's fourth child celebrates his first birthday on Sunday - and what a year it has been for him.

Little Leo Blair, who is thought to have held his birthday party in a swimming pool at the prime minister's official country residence Chequers, has had no ordinary start to life.

Prime Minister's retreat at Chequers
Chequers: Perhaps not the average venue for a first birthday bash
He travelled 14,000 miles before he could walk, and was in the eye of a political storm before he could talk.

He made his first "public appearance" when he was just weeks old.

But soon after that he was at the centre of a row over privacy, when "unauthorised" photographs of him were used by newspapers in spite of pleas by the Blairs.

And since then, at least as far as the media is concerned, he has gone quiet.

His parents are determined to protect his privacy - as they also have been with his siblings Euan, 17, Nicky, 15, and Kathryn, 13 - and have kept strict control over photographs of him.

Tony, Kathryn and Leo Blair
Leo, seen here with dad and sister Kathryn, has been on family holidays to Italy and France
A set of 14 pictures of the Blair parents and baby, taken shortly after Leo's birth, was made available to publications the world over.

However, they had to pay £500 for Mrs Blair's chosen charity each time one was published - and so far the photos have fetched £40,000 for Breast Cancer Care and Sargent Cancer Care for Children.

Father Blair has described how baby Leo keeps him in the "real world".

Mr Blair told the Sunday People: "The great thing when I see Leo is that I know that all he wants me for is me.

"Like my other three he doesn't care whether I am prime minister or not, whether I'm famous and my picture is on the telly and in the papers, whether I'm at the top of the tree or the bottom of the heap."

He added: "I can be about to leave Downing Street for Prime Minister's Question Time, my head can be full of 50 questions that the Opposition might ask me that I have no easy answer to, and I nip back up to see Leo.

"And it all comes into perspective. He's playing with his toys and you have to enjoy and savour that and it's a good reality check, isn't it?"

World traveller

Leo George Blair was born four days early at London's Chelsea and Westminster hospital on 20 May 2000, weighing 6lb 12oz.

A few days later, Leo was registered at Chelsea and Kensington Register Office, with Mr Blair entering "Prime Minister" under his occupation on the birth certificate.

Six weeks after he was born, Leo visited Portugal with his mother - who was still breastfeeding him - to stay with the British ambassador at their official residence.

President Clinton
How many babies met President Clinton at three months old?
He has also accompanied his parents to Italy, France, Scotland and the United States.

In August, he went to Tuscany, Italy, with the whole family for their summer holiday, and then on with them to France for a break in the Pyrenees.

Back in London, it was only a matter of days before Leo accompanied his parents to Balmoral to visit the Queen.

At three months old he entered the world of international politics, being held by then US President Bill Clinton at a UN summit in New York - before being passed to French President Jacques Chirac.

Photographers camped outside Downing Street
Leo's parents have battled intense media interest throughout his life
In November, Mrs Blair disclosed he had cut his first tooth.

During a visit to the Royal Liverpool Hospital she told a patient her six-month-old son was "a bit fractious" but doing well.

And in February a proud father said Leo was nearly crawling.

Mr Blair will take Sunday off from the election campaign trail to spend it with his youngest son.

But the big question is whether he will be wheeled out for the last word in baby-kissing photocalls.

Ffion Hague with husband William in background
But will Ffion and William send flowers this year?
There is legitimate public interest in a picture of Leo on his first birthday.

But Mr Blair's political opponents have always hinted that he will exploit the baby with photocalls during the election campaign.

And Mr Blair has strongly signalled that he will not.

Tory leader William Hague and his wife Ffion sent the Blairs flowers and best wishes when Leo was born.

Whether Mr Blair's arch-rival in the current election campaign will do the same for his first birthday remains to be seen.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | UK
Leo meets world leaders
30 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair's photo complaint defended
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