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Public Life, Private Pain

In this country we never consider our politicians as having fully rounded lives. For the most part, senior politicians come neatly packaged -- husband, wife, two point four kids. The complete and completed family unit. But the wife and the kids are usually kept in the background, for elections and group photographs.

Our Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly had the full kit when he came to power. His wife, Cherie, a feisty professional lawyer specialising in Human Rights; and three children: two boys and a girl. But from the start, they didn't behave quite like previous Prime Ministers. Instead of being banished to the countryside to let Dad run the country, they all seemed to live in affectionate, family chaos at Number Ten Downing Street. Then, a couple of years ago, the background changed a bit as Cherie surprised us all -- at the age of forty five, she gave birth to another son, Leo. The first child born to a serving Prime Minister for more than a hundred years. Which proved, if nothing else, that the two adult Blairs aren't exactly pickled in aspic. That they're a living growing family and that the Prime Minister and his wife don=t just read in bed.

On Tuesday night we learned that Cherie Blair, by now forty seven years old, has had a miscarriage. Whether she became pregnant deliberately, or it was an accident of fate we don't know, and to be honest, it's none of our buisiness. She's known to love kids and Tony Blair has referred to his wife as "getting broody again" on more than one occasion, so maybe the pregnancy was intentional. For once, the British media has generally maintained a decent distance on this one and allowed the Blairs space and time alone. In part, I suspect, that's because most doctors will admit that more than half of women who get pregnant in their late forties will suffer a miscarriage for no particular or identifiable reason. It is, as they say, just one of those tragic things.

For the Blairs the loss must be harder to bear because it is more public than most. But they can take comfort in knowing that theirs is a remarkable family and that the undoubted stresses and strains of political life, normally a devisive influence, seem to have cemented their marriage and drawn their family even closer together.

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