Budding entrepreneurs give Blair a rough ride

Tony Blair invited a group of youngsters into Downing Street yesterday as part of a government-backed campaign to promote entrepreneurship - and got more than he bargained for.

His audience, 16 young people aged between 12 and 18 from schools around the country, proved particularly enterprising at putting the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues on the spot.

The questioning was led by Thomas Lamboi, 14, from Mr Blair's local school, Westminster City School, who demanded to know why the Prime Minister had not sent his children there.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was then tackled on the strength of the pound against the euro and Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, was given a grilling about Rover.

At a later press conference at the National Portrait Gallery, the leaders of the three organisations behind the Enterprise Insight campaign fared little better. The would-be entrepreneurs wanted to know why it had taken the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce so long to launch the initiative, and exactly how its success would be measured. The campaign will involve 250 "business ambassadors', including Sir Richard Branson, the Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Sir Alan Sugar, going into schools to persuade young people that business can be fun as well as vital to wealth creation.

Kerris Dunn, 15, of Grey Coat Hospital school in London, showing a maturity of judgement that belied her years, said: "I thought it was interesting, but I want to see six months down the line whether this makes any difference."

Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, said he thought it would take more like two or three years for the impact to be seen. As for Sir Richard Branson, he could not get out of the firing line fast enough. "Thank God I am not on the platform," he joked as he left the press conference.

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