Prime minister gets email - but don't expect a reply

People are now free to send emails to Tony Blair - but the PM won't be replying to each and every one personally

For the first time, it is possible to send the British prime minister a message over the Internet. But if you want him to read or reply to your communication, stick to snail mail.

The 10 Downing Street Web site on Thursday published a Web form that allows members of the public to contact the Prime Minister. According to the site, individual emails will not receive a reply -- apart from an automated response -- because "it is easy to create an email address without any identity checks", and they don't want to risk passing "confidential information" to an unauthorised person.

The site advises that if your comments to Blair are personal or private and you expect a reply, you should write to him at his Downing Street address instead.

Apart from receiving a monthly report on the issues raised in the messages, Mr Blair will only read a "representative sample". In order to send Mr Blair a message, users will have to fill in a Web form. Each message must have a predefined subject category, of which there are around 30. They include transport, the environment and crime, the internet, and science and technology.

The news is seen as a personal triumph for Tim Ireland, an Internet enthusiast who has spent the last three years campaigning for the prime minister to become an email user. During his campaign, Ireland created a hoax email address [] and sent messages to MPs asking for baby name suggestions. He also started receiving messages from people all around the world who believed they were writing to the prime minister.

"Because the email address appeared in search results, it appears to be a genuine and valid address for our beloved prime minister and is often simply copied, pasted, and used as such. The result was I regularly got email for Tony Blair," Ireland said.

Ireland shut down the address last year after spending some time forwarding important messages to Tony Blair's constituency office. "You would be surprised at the number of people who write to the prime minister with an individual, political or social concern," he said. The messages included "14 year old girls urging Tony to give peace a chance," "people saying 'well done' or 'boo, hiss' for his stance on Israel and Iraq," as well as "one guy in particular who is really, really concerned about badger baiting," he added.

Alternative ways of contacting the Prime Minister are by fax on 020 7925 0918 or writing to him at 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA.