Victory jam strikes a false note for Germans

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The Independent Online
Three leading German politicians accepted a bogus invitation to an election victory party for Tony Blair that was to have taken place yesterday in London, a German satirical magazine said.

The Frankfurt-based Titanic magazine said Oskar Lafontaine, chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), with SPD leaders Gerhard Schroeder and Rudolf Scharping agreed by telephone to attend the non- existent party.

A Titanic reporter called Martin Sonneborn, speaking English, posed as "Mr Burlington, head of the celebration committee of the Labour Party," the magazine said. "All three said they would be delighted to attend," Titanic said.

The SPD even put out a press release last week saying Mr Lafontaine would attend the party, but withdrew it a day later.

The magazine said that all three were asked to bring an instrument in order to take part in "a victory jam-session" with Mr Blair who would play an electric guitar, and the United States President, Bill Clinton, who, they were told, would bring his saxophone.

"I can't play anything," Mr Schroeder told the magazine. "I can't even sing." But he added: "I will come gladly, very gladly. I like you guys."

Mr Schroeder, premier of the state of Lower Saxony, is a top candidate to challenge Chancellor Helmut Kohl in next year's general elections. Mr Scharping, whom Mr Kohl defeated in 1994, said he would bring a percussion instrument to play. But Mr Scharping insisted that he be allowed to play in the front row next to Mr Blair because he is "president of the Social Democrats of Europe."

Such hoaxing of a public figure is not unique in recent times. Two years ago the Queen was hoodwinked into broadcasting to Canada by a disc jockey called Pierre Brassard who was posing as the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien.

He elicited a promise from the Queen that she would try to influence Quebec's referendum on proposals to break away from Canada. Believing she was speaking to Mr Chretien, who was fighting to hold his country together, the Queen held a 17-minute telephone conversation in which she agreed to deliver a television address calling for national unity. At the time a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman described the incident as "irritating and regrettable".

Reuters - Bonn