Little Ant & Dec give the PM a thorough deep-fat frying

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Indy Politics

It is Tony Blair's stated ambition to bypass the Westminster-based media, with their obsession with personalities and other trivia, and talk directly to the people about the issues that matter. The new strategy, grandly entitled "Operation Matrix", involves making himself and his cabinet ministers open for interview by regional newspapers and by programmes and publications that are not aimed at a specialised audience.

It is Tony Blair's stated ambition to bypass the Westminster-based media, with their obsession with personalities and other trivia, and talk directly to the people about the issues that matter. The new strategy, grandly entitled "Operation Matrix", involves making himself and his cabinet ministers open for interview by regional newspapers and by programmes and publications that are not aimed at a specialised audience.

In that spirit, he subjected himself to a TV interview yesterday by two 10-year-old boys who style themselves Little Ant and Little Dec. From this, the nation learnt that the Prime Minister has never tasted a Turkey Twizzler, but his wife is now the owner of a pair of Union flag knickers.

This exercise in telling the voters about things that really concern them was broadcast last night on ITV's Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway - the programme you missed if you were watching Dr Who.

The boys, whose real names are James Pallister and Dylan McKenna-Redshaw, began the interview, at 10 Downing Street, by saying: "We've heard that you sometimes don't answer questions properly. Can you make sure you answer ours today, please - we've spent a long time writing them."

Mr Blair agreed but admitted to being a little nervous.

Turning to school dinners, Little Dec demanded: "Have you actually tasted a Turkey Twizzler? They're really nice, you know."

Mr Blair replied: "No, I haven't." But he admitted a liking for chips.

Next, a question from Little Ant: "You and Mr Brown live next door to each other. Have you ever thought about doing Changing Rooms?" Mr Blair burst out laughing and said: "No."

The boys then moved on to the subject of John Prescott and asked: "Why does he always look so grumpy?"

Mr Blair replied: "He has got a bit of a grumpy face, hasn't he? He's actually got a very good sense of humour. You just don't want to get on the wrong side of him. He's got a mean right hook."

The boys also rebuked Mr Blair for talking about education when they would rather be out on a football pitch than in the classroom. He told them: "Once you grow up it's important to have a good education. You might think it's more fun to play football, but you're not going to play football all your life." Mr Blair attempted to give the boys a brief lesson on how inflation is caused. He was asked: "Why can't you get extra money printed for poorer people, it's only paper after all?"

The Prime Minister explained: "The more extra money you print, the more it loses its value and what happens is that prices start to rise ... so money becomes worth less ... we haven't got inflation at the moment, but when we had it prices go up, which is bad for people."

Finally, Little Ant and Dec brought along a bag of presents for Cherie, containing a pink feather boa, a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates and a pair of Union flag knickers. "Ooh, a pair of knickers," Mr Blair exclaimed, perceptively. He laughed, thanked them, and promised to pass on the gifts.

He reciprocated by handing out presents himself - something he is not known to do after being questioned by Andrew Marr - a number 10 Newcastle United shirt each, signed by the Prime Minister.

Last week, Saturday Night Takeaway suffered in the ratings war, despite having David Beckham on the show, as more people watched Dr Who on the BBC.

Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush forecast: "If David Beckham couldn't beat the Time Lord then you don't really fancy the chances of Tony Blair."

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