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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 11:14 GMT
Michael blasts Blair over Iraq
Tony Blair plays the guitar at a school in Hartlepool
Mr Blair faces some tough questioning

He likes to emphasise his cool credentials by grabbing a guitar and joining in impromptu jamming sessions during tours of Britain's schools.

Now the UK is on the brink of war with Iraq, it is again towards the youth of today Tony Blair finds himself turning for support.

In a bid to debate the rights and wrongs of military action, the prime minister has secured a coveted 60 minute slot on music channel MTV.

It could be a wide-open, no-holds-barred show
MTV official
But George Michael, whose single Shoot the Dog, criticised US foreign policy and has a video mocking Tony Blair and George Bush, said the prime minister would need to do a lot more to win over British support for war.

He accused Mr Blair of "arrogance" for ignoring the majority of public opinion against war with Iraq - and warned that the hardline stance could spell the end of his premiership.

Mr Blair will take his message directly to an audience of 16-24 year olds in an MTV special billed as "hard hitting and provocative".

Middle East

He will discuss the prospect of imminent conflict with members of an MTV "pan-European youth forum", more used to pop stars and music videos.

George Michael
What he is doing is madness
George Michael
Executives at MTV, part of the Viacom media group, told the Financial Times it was the first time an exclusively youthful audience would have had the chance to raise concerns over the Middle East crisis.

"They don't ask questions in the same way as adults and it could be a wide-open, no-holds-barred show," an official said.

The broadcast, entitled "MTV Forum With Tony Blair: Is War the Answer?" is scheduled for 7 March and has a potential audience of 300m households.

It follows a month of talks between the US-owned music channel and Downing Street.

Careless whisper?

Former Wham frontman George Michael criticised Mr Blair's position, describing him as "more arrogant" than Tory former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He told GMTV: "Something like between 80-90% of the public are saying 'absolutely no way' do they want this without the UN ...

"Why does our opinion mean nothing? Surely that is more arrogant than we can ever remember from Thatcher?"

Asked if he believed the first casualty of war would be the prime minister, Mr Michael said: "Oh, I hope so...

"I think what he is doing is madness and I hope that if he goes ahead, we remember it regardless of what happens in the war."

Mr Blair, a father of four - including three teenagers - has regularly shown off his music prowess by strumming the guitar during trips round schools.

'Ugly Rumours'

Earlier this month, the prime minister picked up lead guitar, while Home Secretary David Blunkett kept a steady beat on the drums during a tour of Firth Park Community College in Sheffield.

Mr Blair is an old hand at the music scene, having played with band the Ugly Rumours in his student days at Oxford.

During his appearance on MTV, the prime minister might find he is asked less searching questions than the prospect of war.

When Bill Clinton was a guest on the channel during his presidential campaign against George Bush senior, he found himself being quizzed about whether he wore boxer shorts or briefs.



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