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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
This week's programme...
Jon Sopel
Jon Sopel
Presenter
The Politics Show

Gordon Brown

Hello again,

On this week's Politics Show...

Gordon Brown has had a turbulent first few months in office.

He returns home this weekend from a European summit in Lisbon to increasingly strident calls for a referendum on the new European treaty.

So far, he's held the line that a referendum isn't needed.

But his predecessor, Tony Blair, was just as firm until he U-turned in 2004 over the previous Constitution Treaty.

At first, many commentators, and even Mr Brown's internal party critics, were pleasantly surprised by his firmness and apparent sense of purpose.

But now his resolution (or obstinacy) will really be put to the test.

I'll be speaking to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and once a potential rival of Mr Brown's, about how he feels the way ahead will unfold.

David Blunkett
How will David Blunkett assess the government's future?

GP 24 / 7..?

These days, if you want to nip down the supermarket for some groceries or buy yourself a new jacket on a Sunday or a weekday evening, there's nothing to stop you.

It's not quite a 24-hour culture, but it's certainly easier than it used to be to get things done either side of a full working week.

But one thing you can't easily do is visit your GP.

Despite negotiating a contract with the NHS, which has raised GPs' average earnings to well over 100,000 a year, family doctors do not normally offer an evening or weekend service for regular appointments.

Doctor writing prescription
What price for 24/7 from doctors?

The government think the public want a better service.

So they're negotiating with private sector companies like Virgin and Tesco to see if they could offer GP services to NHS patients - outside the framework of that controversial contract.

Doctors strongly refute that their deal is unduly generous in any case.

They question whether there's really any demand for evening and weekend GP appointments - a bruising struggle between ministers and doctors seems inevitable.

Tough welfare plan

David Cameron and Chris Grayling
David Cameron's tough stance on welfare will be revealed by Chris Grayling...

At the Conservative Party Conference David Cameron announced that he'd fund a cut in taxes on families by saving money on benefit payments.

He argued that up to 600,000 of the five million people currently not working - on incapacity benefit, income support, and jobseekers' allowance - could be coaxed back into employment.

This could be done, if necessary, by removing benefits from those who turn down reasonable offers of employment.

The target of savings Mr Cameron aimed to make was a stiff one, not least because the government was already hoping to drive down claimant numbers, and the Conservative plans were over and above the government's own.

We'll be exploring the case for and against a tough line on welfare claimants, and I'll be talking to the Conservatives' Work and Pensions spokesman Chris Grayling.

In his Autumn Political Cartoon Gallery, Gary Barker gives his own personal take on the politics of the week...

Paola Buonadonna has been to Margate to sniff the sea air and find out how to regenerate our seaside towns.



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