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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
All hail the lovely Leo

Checking out the first picture of the new baby outside Downing Street
By BBC News Online's Mark Davies

And so it came to pass that when the Blair baby was born, crowds gathered on Whitehall and chanted in unison: "Peace, peace, peace."

People sent flowers, others took photographs of themselves. Children laughed and played in the sunshine while their parents cracked jokes with police officers by the Downing Street gates.

And a man dressed as Yogi Bear danced up to the doorway of Number Ten.

Downing Street tourists
A surreal afternoon in Downing Street
Of course, the peace-seeking crowds were actually more concerned with events in Eritrea than in the baby no doubt gurgling away in the corridors of power.

And the bear sent to see the Blair was part of a stunt by a TV channel. It's not too hard to guess whether it'll be Yogi or the protesters who will feature on the news pages on Tuesday.

It was certainly a surreal sight which greeted the tourists tramping up and down Whitehall on Monday afternoon.

On one side of the road, there was the noisy Eritrean protest, around 50 police vans and a good number of police officers, with a helicopter buzzing overhead for good measure.

Flowers are delivered to Downing Street to mark birth of prime minister's new baby
Yet more flowers for the Blairs
And on the other were the regular deliveries of flowers and cards for the proud new parents. A few well-wishers, mixed in with a couple of regulation misfits and one man who'd clearly had one too many shandies, hung around by the gates.

You could almost sense the resentment wafting over the road from the demonstration.

"Peace, peace, peace", they chanted. "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!"

Thankfully, no-one on the other side of the road countered with a round of: "We want Leo! We want Leo!"

Eritrea protesters in Whitehall
Other side of the street..and other things on their minds
The man from Interflora, meanwhile, just wanted a break from all the to-ing and fro-ing to Downing Street.

"We've had lots of orders," he said. "Seem to be from normal people, mainly." By which he meant: not politicians.

"Ooh, he's beautiful," cooed one woman as she checked out the first picture of young Leo.

"What a gorgeous little boy. It's wonderful."

"It sure is," says a Californian woman on holiday in the UK. "It's like a royal birth - we feel so lucky to be here right now."

Others were more relaxed about the whole affair.

Yogi Bear
Weirder and weirder
"Excuse me, " one man asked me. "Can you tell me where Buckingham Palace is?"

"Are you here because of the new baby?", I asked, rather over-excitedly.

"Ah yes, the new arrival," he murmured. "So can you tell me where Buckingham Palace is?"

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, looking equally nonplussed by the whole business, emerged from Downing Street and wearily fought his way through a party of schoolchildren.

Yet still the flowers arrived. Still the chanting persisted on the other side of the road. And still, just as on any other day, the tourists trailed past.

Man dressed as Yogi Bear in Downing Street
A bear for the Blairs
"Baby, eh?" muttered one man. "Should've brought Tony a card, really shouldn't we?

"He's not a bad bloke, after all."

"Oh, it's fantastic!" said his wife pointing at a picture of Leo. "Look at the baby! What a lovely little boy!"

An American woman stops and looks, putting her arm on the other woman's shoulder and sighing: "Isn't it lovely? You people are so lucky to have such a great couple in charge."

And I could have sworn I saw a gaunt looking William Hague scurrying past looking, well, a little bit miffed.

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