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NEWS Thursday, 11 March, 1999, 21:46 GMT
The Tony and Gordon show
blair brown
Neighbours and friends
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown have appeared together on a radio phone-in to answer questions about the Budget and their friendship.

Mr Blair spoke of the "remorseless" nature of his job and how hard he works at juggling family life with the demands of being prime minister.

He declared his friendship with the chancellor to be one of the closest in politics and praised Mr Brown for handling the economy "brilliantly".

Mr Brown in turn declared the Blairs to be "a wonderful family", though he joked about them being noisy neighbours.

Budget complaints

However, callers to Talk Radio's hour-long programme were keen to complain about Budget increases in petrol and diesel duty.

One caller said that after Tuesday's Budget statement: "I felt as though Dick Turpin had just been through my living room".

But the politicians remained insistent that, taken as a whole, the Budget measures would leave everybody better off.

Mr Blair told one caller: "The key thing Gordon's managed to do, and brilliantly, is to have sorted out this economy for the long-term so we have got rid of the debt we inherited."

The chancellor offered to personally intervene in the case of one disabled caller who questioned whether he would be eligible for benefit to soften the impact of Mr Brown's increases on fuel duties.

"Why don't you write me a note and we will get this sorted out," he said.

Noisy neighbours

Mr Blair and Mr Brown also joked about their relationship living next door to each other in Downing Street.

The prime minister, his wife Cherie and their three children live in the chancellor's traditional home at No 11.

Mr Brown - who is single - occupies the smaller flat at No 10.

The chancellor complained about noisy guitar playing and music coming from next door - even before the children came home from school.

Asked how he juggled being prime minister with leading a normal family life, Mr Blair replied: "With difficulty is the truthful answer.

"In one sense it's easy because I can often, in the early evening, go back up to the flat and see the kids there.

"Obviously the life we live is very difficult in terms of security. Everywhere you go with police, but actually we are a very normal family when the flat door closes."

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John Sergeant: Neighbours on Downing Street out to demonstrate their neighbourliness
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