Fake Hague fails to rattle Blair in radio show hoax

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We were promised a new brand of politics away from the adversarial tradition, and yesterday it seemed to materialise. Alas, it was all a hoax. Paul McCann separates fact from fiction.

For a few minutes, listeners to a London radio station could believe that in "Politics Street" the party leaders really are like the suburbanites who vote for them.

But it emerged that the William Hague who had found Tony Blair "that Cher exercise video you were interested in" was a DJ on Capital radio called Steve Penk with a flair for impersonation.

Directory enquiries guided Mr Penk to the Cabinet Office and a monotone Yorkshire accent was enough to get him past Mr Blair's secretary and on the line to the Prime Minister himself.

Unfortunately for the history of party relations the Prime Minister twigged immediately, but the following conversation was broadcast by the station yesterday:

Blair: Hello.

Penk/Hague: Um, hello Tony.

Blair: Yes.

Penk/Hague: Hello there, it's William Hague.

Blair: Yeah.

Penk/Hague: Just thought, I'd y'know phone for a chat. Say hello, see how you're getting on that sort of thing.

Blair (laughing): It's quite a good imitation.

Penk/Hague: Well we do get quite a lot of impostors calling our central office so I can understand what the lady was saying when she was explaining that you get quite a few yourself, so just thought I'd find out how you're keeping. Is everything OK?

Blair: I'm just trying to work out who it is really. Well, of course, it's... You've done very well to get through the network, you must have taken them in very well on the switchboard.

Penk/Hague: Well no, ...I was talking to John Prescott the other day and he said that you wanted that Cher exercise video that you were interested in ...We went to the car boot sale, (Blair laughing in the background) me and Ffion, and managed to find it and so perhaps I can let you have it in the Commons today.

Blair: I think it would be very helpful, just hand it over at Question Time. It will be a better exchange than usual.

Mr Blair admitted to the hoax call atquestion time in the Commons yesterday and then used it against the real Mr Hague, saying the hoaxer had better questions than the leader of the opposition.

Mr Blair's spokesman explained how the hoaxer had been found out: "William Hague never calls him `Tony', he calls him Prime Minister - in spite of the fact that he has told him many times, `You can call me Tony'."