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By the way Peter – you'll be making a speech for the PM…

Editor Peter Barron found himself having to make an impromptu speech in front of the Prime Minister at a Downing Street reception this week.

Along with other editors from the regional press, he had been invited along to meet the Prime Minister and key cabinet ministers.

Tony Blair spoke about the unique role of regional and local newspapers, and their importance.

And Peter Barron had something of a shock when Newspaper Society president Edwin Boorman asked him to reply on behalf of the editors!

Peter is editor of the PM’s constituency newspaper, The Northern Echo, and the PM told his audience – somewhat tongue in cheek: “When I was a young MP, it was always a thrill to see my name in The Northern Echo – and it still is!”

In front of other including ministers Stephen Byers, Estelle Morris, John Prescott, John Reid, Margaret Beckett and Alastair Darling, as well the PM’s wife, Cherie, Peter said: “It is important to know that politicians at the highest level appreciate the true value of the regional press because local newspapers are at the heart of their communities and more trusted than national newspapers.”

Thanking Mr Blair for his hospitality, he added: “I am thrilled to hear that the Prime Minister still gets a kick out of seeing his name in The Northern Echo – I just hope he pays 32 pence for his copy!”

Peter had earlier been surprised to be invited to meet Mr Blair in private before the reception began.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Peter, “I was led to a drawing room wherethe Prime Minister was sitting with Alistair Campbell.

“We talked abouteverything from the war on terrorism to football – particularly the prospectof Darlington playing Newcastle in the FA Cup.”

The event was organised by the Newspaper Society.

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