Blair returning to work after heart scare

Tony Blair was today embarking on a series of meetings just a day after hospital treatment for a heart problem.

Tony Blair was today embarking on a series of meetings just a day after hospital treatment for a heart problem.

The British Prime Minister has pulled out of making a statement to the UK House of Commons on the European summit. But despite doctors’ advice for him to rest for 24 hours he was going ahead with meetings at Downing Street, No 10 said.

He is expected to be back at his desk full-time tomorrow morning.

The 50-year-old British premier was taken to Stoke Mandeville hospital yesterday after complaining of chest pains while staying at Chequers, his official countryside home in Buckinghamshire.

He was moved to a specialist coronary care unit at London’s Hammersmith hospital where doctors diagnosed an irregular heartbeat.

They carried out a series of checks and gave him a cardio conversion, a relatively common procedure to regulate the heartbeat. He was allowed to return to Downing Street yesterday evening after spending around five hours with doctors.

It is the first time Mr Blair, a father-of-four, has suffered any heart problems. But it raises memories of the heart attack that killed former Labour leader John Smith. Mr Smith had suffered an earlier heart attack when he was 50, the same age as Mr Blair.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will deliver the Commons statement in place of the prime minister.

A Downing Street statement said Mr Blair’s treatment was “completely successful”.

The statement said: “It was established he had an irregular heartbeat and a cardio-version was administered to regulate it.

“This was completely successful. He was in hospital for four to five hours and is now back at Number 10. The hospital says this is a relatively common condition and is easily treated.

“He has suffered no damage and he is fine. There is no reason why this should reoccur. They have advised him to rest for 24 hours.”

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was quick to send his best wishes to Mr Blair.

In a statement to PA News, he said: “I was very sorry to hear that the Prime Minister was taken ill today and was briefly admitted to hospital.

“I very much hope he makes a swift recovery and I send him and his family all best wishes at this difficult time.”

Mr Blair’s constituency Labour Party agent John Burton said he had spoken to the prime minister’s wife Cherie.

“I have spoken to Cherie and Tony’s fine,” he said. “He went into hospital and had some treatment and now he is fine.”

Mr Blair has always piled pressure on himself – but even by his punishing standards, the last few months have been particularly gruelling.

The Hutton Inquiry into the death of UK Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly has paralysed Downing Street – as the row with the BBC over its disputed news report itself had done for weeks before.

The shadow of the decision to go to war also fell across Labour’s party conference in Bournemouth, making a traditionally testing time even more fraught for a prime minister lacking several of his inner circle who have traditionally helped share his load.

For the last few years the pressure of his international travel has been relentless, easing up only since unpopularity over Iraq meant concentrating more on Labour’s domestic agenda.

Mr Blair has travelled more than any other premier, sometimes clocking up more than 40 countries in a year, travelling on hair-raising and body punishing itineraries ignoring time zones and the need for normal sleep.

This year his face and body language have told the tale of someone under intense pressure, with the prime minister often looking haggard and care-worn.

He has also lost several close political friends and allies since he once seemed to be able to whizz round the world at will.

But he also prides himself on being in shape, playing tennis and running on the treadmill to keep fit.

In an interview for his 50th birthday earlier this year, he was described as weighing just under 13 stone, less than he did a decade ago.

“I feel great, physically. I do more exercise today than I’ve done since I was at school,” he told Saga magazine.

He told the magazine he watched his diet but it was exercise that particularly helped him cope with stress.

Mr Blair’s elderly father Leo – after whom he named his fourth child – was left frail after a second stroke two years ago.

He was only 39 when he suffered his first stroke, and took three years to recover his speech.

The British prime minister has said his genetic links made him concerned for his own health.

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