Will the real Tony Blair please stand up?

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"I do have a similar smile, but fortunately my ears lie flat on my head. I have to wad them out with bits of wadding. And I'm going a little thin on top so I have to do a bit of careful hairdressing to give it that look. We're the same height, same hair and eye colour. But it's very difficult with him because there are no props or glasses."

Michael Aidan-Ross is apparently one of a rare breed; the Tony Blair lookalike. Last night it emerged that Mr Blair's "bland" features have made it impossible to get an accurate likeness.

"We've been looking for a Tony Blair for eight months but we can't find anyone who looks anything like him. One paper called him 'bland Blair' so perhaps he's too bland to have a double," said Michael Sweeney, head of the doubles agency Lookalikes. "We have a few John Majors and at some dinner speeches people like to have a leader of the opposition to have a bit of a ruck. We've had a couple of those but we haven't been able to get a Tony Blair, which meant we had to use a Clinton. That obviously wasn't as satisfactory."

Susan Scott, whose agency represents Mr Aidan-Ross, conducted a hunt for her own Blair lookalikes through a television programme. "The problem is he's quite bland. Even my next door neighbour looks a bit like him," she said. "He's very normal looking with no particular characteristics. But as we get to know him more the caricaturists will be able to pull something out. I think this devil's eyes thing might come along."

The difficulties in getting an accurate likeness of Mr Blair are not confined to lookalike agencies. Madame Tussauds, which recently produced a waxwork model of the opposition leader, said that his image had proved somewhat difficult.

"The problem for our sculptor was that at the sitting, which was where she met him, he was all smiles, and in most [of the photographs] he was all smiles," a spokeswoman said.

"But when we discussed his pose with him he had a look around and saw the models of John Major and Paddy Ashdown, which looked ... serious. So he decided he'd like to look quite serious, which she found very difficult." Mr Blair, it emerged, did not look recognisably like Mr Blair when straight- faced.

Becoming a convincing Mr Blair in the run-up to an election may prove very lucrative, according to agencies. Guest appearances mean a "good" Tony Blair can earn pounds 15,000-pounds 20,000 in three months.

Mr Aidan-Ross is well aware of this. He watches political coverage and even joined the Labour Party to try to get his portrayal as accurate as possible. The key, he said, was in the mannerisms. "He looks directly at people, unlike other politicians," he said. "I've heard criticisms of his smile but apart from that I think he's actually pretty good-looking. But I'm bound to say that, aren't I?"

And the real Tony Blair? In the pictures above, he is, naturally, the man in the middle.