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Confidential British documents seen up close

Housing Minister Caroline Flint arrives for a Cabinet Meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on Tuesday. She accidentally let photographers see a confidential document that claims the country's housing market could fall by 10 percent this year. Lewis Whyld / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two senior government ministers accidentally revealed confidential documents to sharp-eyed photographers on Tuesday — including proposals for Britain's prime minister Gordon Brown to star in a reality television show.

Close-up images of an e-mail printout that Communities Secretary Hazel Blears was carrying when she left a meeting in Brown's office showed details of a planned TV program called "Junior P.M.," a talent show for young lawmakers in which Brown would be a judge.

The e-mail, sent to one of Blears' advisers by television producer Margaret McCabe, says the show would be "a golden opportunity for the P.M." to show a more relaxed side of his demeanor.

A sticker attached reads: "I think you intend to raise this in the margins of Cabinet."

Prime minister for a day
A spokesman for Blears confirmed there had been contact with the producers over the proposals.

The young people would have some kind of competition and then a young prime minister would be chosen for a day, the spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity in line with ministry policy. He said nothing has been finalized.

Brown has made repeated attempts to soften his sometimes dour image in recent weeks: holding talks with pop star Shakira and recording a video message for "American Idol."

But the efforts brought little reward in municipal polls on May 1, when Labour lost hundreds of local council seats and saw the main opposition Conservatives snatch control of London's City Hall for the first time.

Photographers see housing warning
Earlier in the day, Britain's housing minister Caroline Flint accidentally let photographers see another confidential document, which warned the country's housing market could fall by 10 percent this year.

Flint was walking into a morning Cabinet meeting at Downing Street carrying the papers in a clear plastic folder.

Photographers took close-up shots, which show that the document warns prices on Britain's housing market will, at best, drop by 5 to 10 percent this year.

Several British news organizations, including the British Broadcasting Corp., published the photographs Tuesday.

Flint's paper warned that the number of foreclosures in Britain is rising and one paragraph read: "We can't tell how bad it will get."

It appeared to be at odds with the prime minister's message that Britain is in a strong position to ride out the negative effects of the global credit crunch. Brown has said house price falls will be containable.

"These things happen," Flint said in a statement. "I'm not the first person to have been caught out in this way and probably won't be the last."