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British Leader In Internet Debut

April 29, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Tony Blair made his cyberspace debut Wednesday, becoming the first British prime minister to be interviewed on the Internet.

Not to be outdone, opposition Conservative Party leader William Hague made his own Internet debut on another website at the same time Blair was answering questions sent by e-mail.

Only Paddy Ashdown, leader of the third-running Liberal Democratic Party, didn’t show. He accused the others of media stunts, saying he had been answering political questions by e-mail for 10 years.

``As is often the case, the nation’s leaders appear to be waking up to new technology later than the general public,″ said Ashdown.

Blair’s first e-mail question was an example of how prime ministers have to be careful of what they say on the Internet _ just like in the real world.

Soccer fan Jason Smith said he was desperate for a ticket to watch Newcastle _ the team Blair also supports _ play in the Football Association Cup Final on May 16. Could the prime minister help?

Blair chattily replied that he had a ticket but couldn’t go because of a meeting with President Clinton and other leaders of the G-7 group of industrialized nations.

Aides hastily explained afterward that the prime minister couldn’t give his ticket away because the holder would be seated in the royal box at the match, which is among the most important in British soccer calendar.

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