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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 18:27 GMT
Blair's Simpsons role is great PR
By Robin Brant
BBC Radio 1 political reporter

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a guest appearance in The Simpsons, which was shown in the US on Sunday.

Tony Blair meets Homer Simpson

He has faced Jeremy Paxman, Trevor McDonald, and Radio 1 listeners.

Now the PM has faced the toughest of them all - millions of devout American cult cartoon fans.

Tony Blair gets just over 50 seconds in the Simpsons episode that will be shown in the UK in January.

In blue suit and tie, two-inch Tony meets Bart and family at Heathrow.

"Hello, welcome to the United Kingdom," is the first thing you hear him say.

He recorded the script in secret at Downing Street back in April, just weeks after the war started.

Playing chief salesman for the country he goes on to tell Homer to take the kids to Stratford upon Avon and Parliament.

"You Americans love castles," he says to Homer, "there's a huge one in Edinburgh, the city where I was born."

It may not be Oscar-winning but it is a PR masterstroke.

This is a 50-year-old politician doing his best to appear far from the usual stiff, boring image most have of politicians.

Famous Brits

Other famous Brits pop up during the disastrous tour that takes in Harrods and the London Eye - JK Rowling and Sir Ian McKellen play themselves, but when the Queen appears after Homer rams his Mini hire car into a royal carriage she is played by an actor.

Even though Downing Street got script approval there are rumours one line caused problems; Homer takes evasive action to get out of a roundabout the family are stuck on saying: "I'm acting the way America acts best, unilaterally."

Although Number 10 denies any interference, that dig at George Bush's disdain for diplomacy may have been the reason this was not shown until after the US President's UK trip was over.

At the end of the episode Homer is seen trying to escape from the Tower of London after a nasty face-off at the palace, but the Queen lets him off.

Tony Blair has got more work to do, though.

He runs off to greet another family at Heathrow with a "cheerio" as Homer delivers a blow to the Blair ego.

"Wow, I can't believe we met Mr Bean," he says.

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