Backpackers and students queue all night for a ticket to history

They meet on street corners in the middle of the night, refer to each other by number as if they are extras in a James Bond film, and are willing to forgo a night's sleep "in the name of justice''. They are the Hutton Junkies, the concerned citizens content to sleep on pavements to get their hands on one of the 10 "golden tickets'' for the Hutton inquiry made available to the public at 9am every morning at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

Yesterday morning they were queuing for the most golden of Hutton tickets: the one for the appearance of Mr Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, aka the Prime Minister.

At first light the line snaked around the building. By 8.30am it had built steadily to 250, police shepherding it back on itself to keep the traffic moving.

First in line was Alex Holmes, 18, a student at Merton College, Oxford, who had joined the queue at 6.30pm the previous day. He arrived with blanket and collapsible stool in preparation for the night ahead of him. "To actually see Tony Blair in the courtroom will be really exciting," he said. "I want to see if he can sustain his arguments and not hide behind spin."

Dylan Borg, a 24-year-old politics student from Australia, who is spending six months backpacking in Britain, was next. He attended the inquiry three times last week and was walking past the building last night when he saw Mr Holmes already queuing.

"I wasn't intending to wait all night but when I walked past and saw Number One standing there I knew I didn't have any choice,'' he said. So he stopped in the street, started a conversation and waited 15 hours in the cold for his ticket. "It was fun," he says. "And worth going to see Blair squirm in the flesh."

To further counter criticism that young people don't care about politics, also among the lucky ones was a party of four sixth-formers from north London who came equipped with a tent, provisions and a DVD player to last them through the early hours. The police stopped them from lighting their barbecue, but the only thing they didn't seem to plan for was the possibility that they wouldn't all get in - the quartet occupied positions 7 to 11 in the queue, so unlucky Sam Kitchener ended up having to settle for one of the 150 televised seats in adjacent court 72.

"I was disappointed, but I still found it interesting," he said. "There's a real sense of excitement coming here and seeing politics in the making. There's a real buzz in the atmosphere, something great to experience.''

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