The invitation to fire questions at Tony Blair via Twitter was intended to honour Interfaith Harmony Week. There was little concord, however, as the "AskTony" tech event was hijacked by hostile inquiries about the former prime minister's tax affairs, the Iraq war and his tempestuous relationship with Gordon Brown.
Mr Blair, a known technophobe, uploaded a picture of himself seated at a keyboard to convince sceptics that he was actually posting replies in person to the questions sent to his Faith Foundation. Ruth Turner, the Foundation's chief executive, revealed that her boss had been taking "Twitter lessons" but warned "he thinks quicker than he types".
However, he was smart enough to avoid loaded questions such as "How did you manage to earn £12m and yet only pay £400k in income tax?" and "Did you ever throw a mobile phone at Gordon, and if not, why?"
Amid unhelpful queries over the whereabouts of those WMDs, the wisdom of making nice with Colonel Gaddafi and his relationship with Carole Caplin, one mischievous member of the public did pierce Mr Blair's shields. Adam Jacobs, a medical statistician, asked: "How's this whole Middle-East peace gig working out for you?" "Very tough, but then I always knew it was going to be," replied Mr Blair. But he failed to answer Jacobs' first question: "When you read 1984 were you aware that it was a novel, and not an instruction manual?"
"Is Malcolm Tucker a good characterisation of Alastair Campbell?", a researcher for a Tory MP asked. Mr Blair replied: "I've never seen the programme [The Thick Of It], but people tell me Malcolm Tucker's a bit better looking. Is he?"
Serious questions included Mr Blair's opinion on Christopher Hitchens, the late atheist intellectual. "Chris was great, deeply spiritual if not religious. People of faith should never be afraid of secular dialogue," Mr Blair wrote.
After revealing he had "read more, thought more, studied more" since leaving office, Mr Blair announced after an hour: "Sorry everyone, time's up, but thanks for your questions."
The "AskTony" initiative was perhaps summed up by Samantha McGowan, a WaterAid worker: "Why oh why would you open yourself up to all that abuse? Ouch."
Question Time: Tweets to 'Ask Tony'
In hell @Gunna_burn
Did you ever throw a mobile phone at Gordon, and if not, why not
Jimmy Wales @jimmy_wales
How can US+Europe/UK help the Palestinians with their internal conflicts and to get better leaders?
Mr Scaff @scaff1974
Do you and Harry Redknapp use the same accountant?
Mark Lambert @sitsio
What's your opinion on the philosophical dichotomy between relativism & objective reality?
How did you manage to earn £12m and yet only pay £400k in income tax?Reuse content