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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February 2005, 19:11 GMT
Tony's trial by sofa
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Somebody probably should have stopped him.

Richard and Judy
Giving the prime minister the sofa treatment
After a nicely-plumped-up interview on the lovely cushions of the Richard and Judy show, Tony Blair must have been feeling relaxed about the way it had all gone.

He had dealt with the problem of never sending flowers to Cherie, which had recently led her to phoning the show out of the blue to reveal the fact to the world - apparently put up to it by her mother.

He had torpedoed suggestions he was planning to call a snap election on Friday - but also said he hadn't decided when to hold it!

And he had brushed aside questions on Gordon Brown, the Iraq war and his resignation.

It had all been, well, lovely. The sofa had done its job of enveloping the prime minister in homeliness. You could almost smell the pot pourri.

Then, in what was obviously an agreed stunt, it was off to replace Richard and sit alongside Judy for the quiz section of the show.

Cheap shot

And there he sat, on a red plastic seat reminiscent of a fruit pastille under the banner declaring this particular phone-in challenge went under the title "You Say, We Pay".

You could almost hear the yelps of enthusiasm from the Conservative Campaign HQ across London.

Cherie Blair on a previous Richard and Judy show
Cherie complained of no flowers
"That's right prime minister - you say, we pay".

If that doesn't find its way onto a Tory poster or leaflet they are not the campaigning team they want to be.

It may be a cheap shot, but that's elections for you.

Mr Blair then found himself talking to a lovely lady called Vivienne who could not believe she was about to win thousands of pounds if the British prime minister could guess what picture was being displayed behind him from her description of it.

Trouble was, he couldn't. And where on earth was Alastair when he needed him.

Judy did all the work as the PM gazed straight ahead, eyes screaming "I'm the prime minister, get me out of here".

She prompted him with the answers to a couple of questions before, like a drowning man spotting a life jacket, the prime minister got one right.

Unfortunately, the answer he had at his fingertips was Sharon Stone.

I foresee more phone calls from Cherie.

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