OPINION: THE BIG QUESTION - Did Tony Blair go too far with the publicity surrounding his new baby?

Tony Blair’s new-born baby Leo has created a lot of positive press for the Prime Minister at a time when he and New Labour appeared to be losing ground in the popularity polls

Tony Blair’s new-born baby Leo has created a lot of positive press

for the Prime Minister at a time when he and New Labour appeared to be

losing ground in the popularity polls


Liberal Democrats

’No. From the moment he heard about the ’people’s pregnancy’ the PM’s

spokesman knew that there would be at least a couple of weeks this May,

when he couldn’t fail but get good coverage. Neither commenting to the

press, nor releasing pictures of the baby for three days after the

birth, ensured maximum drip-drip coverage in the papers. Leo’s photos

were guaranteed even more interest by the choice of a celebrity

photographer and by the decision to sell them to newspapers in aid of

charities. However, I see nothing wrong with any of these antics. No

one’s privacy was intruded, the media got what they wanted, some good

causes got publicity and cash - and Labour’s popularity went up.’


Fishburn Hedges

’I’m not a great fan of New Labour spin but the PM is surely in the

clear with this one. The birth of the first No10 baby for 150 years is a

genuine international news story and Blair had to respond to legitimate

public interest. In fact, Alastair Campbell has handled the whole thing

in a very dignified way, and the photo auction for charity was right as

well as smart. Political opponents might not like the contribution that

little Leo might make to a second Labour term, but that’s Blair’s good,

and their hard, luck. Not only is the PM a proud father, but a political

winner - a clear case of more bang for your buck.’


Media Strategy

’Absolutely not - although normally sensible broadsheet newspapers

crossed the line of my acceptability in the prominence they gave to Mary

McCartney’s portfolio. The fact is that politicians are celebrities in

an age when there aren’t enough celebs to go round and this was big

news. Blair and the Downing Street media machine understand this only

too well and have always catered for the tastes of the breakfast TV

viewer and Hello! magazine reader. I thought they were a rather touching

set of pictures of the kind that most new parents might have on their

mantlepiece and would give to their friends and family. What’s wrong

with that? If No 10 hadn’t met the demand for photographs of the

new-born babe, the paparazzi would be sitting in Horse Guard’s Parade

with long lenses trying to get a shot through the nursery window.’


The Labour Party

’Tony and Cherie have managed to strike a perfect balance. They have

protected their privacy in those irreplaceable first days of their

child’s life at the same time as sharing with the nation the joy of the

birth of Leo. The media was all set to leap on the Prime Minister and

accuse him of seeking to exploit the birth of his child, had he sought

to parade him publicly and frequently in those early days. Naturally, he

and Cherie did not do that. They did make available beautiful

photographs - and made thousands of pounds for charity in the process

Not even our political opponents have been able to criticise Tony and

Cherie and, thankfully, they haven’t tried to do so.’

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